China is developing a new, state-of-the-art unmanned combat aircraft to match its speed with its most advanced stealth fighter, the J-20 Mighty Dragon.
At the biennial Zhuhai airshow in south China, a prototype of the FH-97A unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) was shown to the public for the first time. Now it’s being called a potential “loyal wingman” to the J-20 by Chinese military periodicals.
“The pairing of the FH-97A and the J-20 will free the J-20 from front-line combat duties so that it can specialize in functions such as command and control, data distribution, and communications disruption,” according to a report from the latest edition of the Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.
According to the agency, this would improve the survival rate of pilots and manned combat aircraft during combat.
In October, state media outlet CCTV disclosed how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were being used in combat alongside human-piloted planes. A computer-generated graphic showed a two-seater J-20 commanding several GJ-11-like stealth attack drones UCAV.
It confirmed the J-20 rear-seat pilot’s role as the “weapons officer” controlling the UCAVs.
According to a report in Ordnance Industry Science Technology, another Chinese military journal, the new combat drone has an airframe design identical to the J-20, indicating that it might fly as quickly as the Mighty Dragon.
The report, part of a series on the Zhuhai air show, says the FH-97A is designed to engage large and medium-sized unmanned aircraft and piloted warplanes, such as early warning aircraft, in aerial combat. , strategic bombers, and electronic warfare fighters.
The source claims that the combat drone can make up for the J-20’s lack of firepower by carrying eight smaller smart air-to-air missiles or loitering ammo. You can only store four medium or long-range air-to-air missiles in the main compartment of the stealthy Mighty Dragon and two short-range missiles in the side weapons bays.
The Feihong company, a state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation subsidiary, is developing the FH-97A drone.
This jet-powered drone is rumored to be a copy of the US Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, an autonomous drone designed to fly in formation with manned fighters like the F-35 or F-22.
But Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military analyst, said these are “two different designs with their own merits.” “The Valkyrie is a subsonic drone, while the FH-97A is a super-fast variant,” he stated.
Li Jie, a naval expert from Beijing, noted that China had started developing drone technology in the 1960s. He said the use of UAVs in the Ukrainian war had inspired the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to dedicate more resources to hybrid warfare, integrating manned and unmanned weapons systems.
Drone warfare could help the People’s Liberation Army determine US plans to conduct close reconnaissance along China’s southeast coast if it can develop more of these “loyal co-pilot” drones and put them into service. Service,” Li said.