GJ-11: China's Stealthy Drone and Its Naval Impact

Recently, China Central Television (CCTV) aired an animated graphic illustrating the launch of the GJ-11 from a Type 075 ship.

This report provides a technical perspective on the possible launch of the GJ-11 drone from Chinese amphibious ships and its strategic implications.

The People’s Liberation Army – Navy and its Technological Expansion

Pentagon observers remain alert to the possibility that China’s People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA) can launch and recover the GJ-11 unmanned aircraft from an amphibious assault ship. This development would be a significant milestone in the arms race, implying a considerable advance in China’s maritime power projection capability.

Recently, China Central Television (CCTV) aired an animated graphic illustrating the launch of the GJ-11 from a Type 075 ship. Although this graphic is conceptual, it reveals the PLA-A’s intention to develop such a capability. The implementation of this project would place the PLA-A in a position of strategic advantage, significantly expanding its ability to project force from the sea.

The GJ-11, known for its stealthy design and internal weapons compartments, has been publicly displayed on several occasions. However, doubts remain about its ability to operate from amphibious platforms, which would require the integration of advanced propulsion technologies and navigation systems.

Comparison with the US Navy in the Development of Landing Technologies for Drones

The US Navy’s achievement in landing the X-47B drone on an aircraft carrier marked a milestone in naval aviation. This event demonstrated the viability of autonomous operations in challenging maritime conditions, incorporating variables such as wind speed and sea state. The integration of these capabilities was a major technological advance.

The US Navy is currently preparing for operational deployment of the MQ-25 Stingray, a carrier-launched refueling drone. In contrast, the PLA-A Navy has not yet demonstrated a comparable capability, nor does it operate a significant number of carrier-launched J-31 5th generation stealth fighters, giving the US Navy a technological and tactical advantage.

Furthermore, the challenges associated with taking off and landing large drones on amphibious assault ships, such as the Type 075, are even more complex due to their reduced dimensions compared to an aircraft carrier.

Analysis of the Operational Capability of the F-35B and its Influence on US Naval Strategy

The US Marine Corps has successfully deployed the F-35B, a vertical take-off and landing stealth fighter, into naval operations. This capability allows Marines to project airpower from amphibious platforms with unprecedented agility. The presence of up to 20 F-35Bs on America-class ships demonstrates the tactical and operational superiority of the US Navy in the field of maritime air operations.

This comparison between the capabilities of the US Navy and the PLA-A highlights the importance of technological innovation in modern military strategy. As China continues its development in naval aviation technologies, its ability to match or surpass the US Navy remains a point of discussion and analysis in the international military arena.

The GJ-11 project and its operational potential from amphibious ships represent an area of significant strategic interest, both for China and its potential adversaries. The evolution of this technology will be a key factor in the balance of maritime power in the coming years.

Comparison between the US F-35B and China’s Aeronautical Development

GJ-11: China's Stealthy Drone and Its Naval Impact
F-35B

China’s absence of an equivalent to the US F-35B underscores a clear US advantage in maritime warfare. The J-31 stealth fighter, currently in the prototype phase, more closely resembles a carrier-launched F-35C. However, the GJ-11 drone’s potential ability to operate from amphibious ships, such as the Type 075, could rival the United States’ 5th generation amphibious stealth air attack capabilities.

The feasibility of an amphibiously capable GJ-11 to operate on a scale comparable to that of the US Marine Corps remains an open question. The implementation of such technology represents a significant challenge in terms of engineering and military strategy.

The PLA-Navy, in its development of the new class of Type 075 amphibious ships, appears to follow a similar approach to that of the US Navy with its America-class amphibious ships. These vessels, designed for multi-domain operations, could eventually house the GJ-11, thus improving the air power projection of the People’s Liberation Army.

The Integration of Air Systems in China’s New Type 075 Amphibians

The Hainan, the first of China’s new fleet of Type 075 amphibious ships, has been using advanced aerial platforms to increase its operational versatility. The integration of helicopters such as the Z-18J, Z-9, and Z-8C, highlighted by reports from the Global Times, reinforces the surface-to-air attack capabilities of these vessels.

The addition of the GJ-11, developed by AVIC, to this fleet would significantly expand its offensive capability. The GJ-11 design includes two weapons bays located between the landing gear, equipped to house air-to-ground precision-guided bombs.

Speculation as to whether the GJ-11 could carry weaponry comparable to the HELLFIRE missile or glide bombs remains in the realm of conjecture. The lack of specific details on the weapons capabilities of this platform limits the accuracy of comparisons with US armed drones.

Analysis of the Development of Armed Stealth Drones in the US and its Implications

Although the United States operates attack drones like the Reaper, its ability to develop an armed stealth drone, like the one DARPA and industry are exploring, remains an area of interest. The RQ-170, although unarmed, represents a breakthrough in stealth drone technology. However, integrating weapons systems into super-stealth platforms presents significant engineering challenges.

The GJ-11, with its flying wing design similar to that of the B-2, reflects China’s focus on replicating or adapting US military technologies. This well-documented practice is part of China’s military modernization strategy.

In summary, the development of the GJ-11 and its potential integration into the Type 075 amphibious fleet represents a significant change in the dynamics of naval warfare. The evolution of this technology and its impact on the balance of maritime power will be decisive in China’s and the United States’ future military strategies.