By lex, on November 20th, 2010
Everybody’s getting into it:
China is ramping up production of unmanned aerial vehicles in an apparent bid to catch up with the U.S. and Israel in developing technology that is considered the future of military aviation.
Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week’s Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city. It was a record number for a country that unveiled its first concept UAVs at the same air show only four years ago, and put a handful on display at the last one in 2008.
The apparent progress in UAVs is a stark sign of China’s ambition to upgrade its massive military as its global political and economic clout grows.
Twenty-five UAV variants is rather a shocklingly large spread of capability: Either good ol’ fashioned capitalist competition is more rooted in the Chinese aviation industry than I was led to believe, or else someone is having a little trouble defining their requirement set in a sufficiently broad way.
For the maritime set, it’s worth noting that a stealthy, long range drone capable of maritime surveillance could add a little wood to the arrow of China’s much bruited sea denial missile.
In terms of UAV technology, we are at the equivalent of early World War I aviation. The first airplanes had a reconnaisance mission that was sometimes augmented by the odd grenade being chucked out into enemy trenches. It wasn’t long before two of these machines had a chance encounter, and one pilot pulled his sidearm in the vain attempt to force the other down. It wasn’t far from that to the Vickers gun, heat seeking missiles and the AIM-120.
How long, I wonder, before offensive counter-air drones sweep the skies of defensive drone caps in order to enable strike drones ingress, supported by electronic attack drones jamming on axis and employing anti-radiation missiles?
Not as long as I would have thought, a year or two ago.