New Chinese Armed UAV Project Unveiled

At the recent Singapore Airshow, Chinese firm Star UAV Systems showcased its latest jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Star Shadow. This was one of the recent jet UAV developments that caught media attention in the opening weeks of February.

Powered by two TWS-800 turbofan engines, Star Shadow is a privately funded project developed by the military arm of Star UAV System. The company’s commercial arm had converted a PAC P750XL into an unmanned cargo delivery platform last year. The new flying wing design measures 23.9 feet (7.3 meter) in length, has a wingspan of 49.2 feet (15 meter), maximum takeoff weight of 8,818 pound (4,000 kg) and a weapons bay for an 882-pound (400-kg) payload. The current design features a radar cross-section of 1 sq ft (0.1 sq m).

Professor Liu Fuhu, vice general manager of Star UAV, told AIN that the company plans to roll out the first aircraft by the end of this year and conduct its maiden flight by mid-2019. “The aircraft is still under development, but we are looking to have at least 50 percent of the airframe made from composite material,” he added.

Unlike most projects from state-owned AVIC, the Star Shadow is aimed at the international market that seeks a high-altitude unmanned platform. The UAV has a ceiling of 49,213 feet (15,000 meters), significantly higher than other combat UAVs such as the AVIC Cloud Shadow that was shown in the West for the first time at last November’s Dubai Airshow. Liu also revealed that the guidance system uses both GPS and the Chinese Bei Dou equivalent system.

During the same period, China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC)’s 3rd Division flew the Tian Ying (Sky Eagle) UCAV, another jet flying wing design. Little is known about the Tian Ying, but estimates of the wingspan is between 32 and 40 feet (10 and 12 meters). The UCAV took four years to develop, of which around 80 percent is claimed to be new technology and techniques in Chinese unmanned systems.

Other known flying-wing UAVs in China include AVIC’s Sharp Sword, and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Rainbow-X stealth drone, both of which are in varying degrees of development.