• China Exhibits Less Powerful, Reverse-Engineered Drone Based On American Reaper

    The Caihong 5 is the newest drone in China’s arsenal, but some observers are claiming the schematics look awfully similar to the American MQ-9 Reaper.

    “It’s obvious [China] didn’t think real hard on being original,” a Reaper expert told Breaking Defense.

    Produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the drone can reportedly stay in the air for 30 hours, which is actually longer than the MQ-9’s 18-27 hour range. The first test flight for the drone only lasted for 20 minutes, however.

    The CH-5, or Rainbow 5, has a 66-foot wingspan and, according to China Military Online, is capable of performing “reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, border patrol, island defense and anti-terrorism missions.”

    The Rainbow 5 requires very little ground support, in comparison with older models.

    Pentagon report released in May noted that China plans to pour $10.5 billion from 2014 to 2023 to produce approximately 41,800 unmanned systems. It seems that many of the unmanned aerial vehicle programs operate based on reverse-engineering technology developed in other countries, and the CH-5 doesn’t seem like an exception to the rule. This means that because China lacks innovation in the UAV sector, it is continually behind its Western counterparts on detection capabilities and may not be up to par on the software side, which is often just as important as raw physical capabilities.

    Without advanced software for detection, tracking and targeting, UAVs are not terribly useful.

    Others say that apart from the visual aspect, the similarities between the CH-5 and MQ-9 are in fact superficial.

    For example, the CH-5, while sporting the same wingspan as the MQ-9, can only accommodate a takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds at best. In comparison, the MQ-9 can hold 10,500 pounds. The MQ-9’s internal and external maximum payload weighs approximately 3,855 pounds, but the CH-5 can only carry 1,984 pounds—less than half the capability of the Reaper.

    China apparently sold the CH-3, an older model of the Rainbow series, to the Nigerian military for use against Boko Haram.

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