China’s WJ-700, a high-altitude, long-endurance and high-speed armed reconnaissance drone said to be able to create a new pattern for drone combat, successfully conducted a maiden flight test recently, as military experts said the unmanned aircraft is characterized by its large payload and ability to launch large munitions from outside hostile anti-aircraft fire coverage zone.
The drone integrates high altitude, high speed, long endurance and large load capacities, and focuses on the domestic and international market needs in the next five to 10 years, according to a statement the Third Academy of the state-owned arms firm China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.
The maiden flight test, which took place early Monday morning, verified the correctness and feasibility of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system, laying the foundation for future production of the model, the academy told the Global Times.
The WJ-700 is the only high-altitude, high-speed and long-endurance drone capable of executing both attack and reconnaissance missions in China, and is also a rare type in the world, the academy said.
It is capable of performing air-to-surface precision strikes in multiple situations such as stand-off ground attacks, anti-ship, and anti-radiation attacks, the statement said, noting that it will create a new pattern for drone combat.
Compared to other popular drones, the distinguishing characteristic of the WJ-700 is its large size, meaning it has an outstanding payload capacity that allows it to carry larger munitions like anti-ship missiles and stand-off weapons that enable the drone to launch attacks from outside of an enemy anti-aircraft fire coverage zone, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Key tactical and even strategic battlefield hubs, including radar installations, warships and command centers could be targets of the WJ-700, analysts said.
The WJ-700 could deliver diverse combat missions in high-threat battlefield environments with its precision combat and wide-area reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, the academy said.
After completing various system-level tests and verifications, it will be officially put into combat applications, it added.
The Global Times learned from the developer that the WJ-700 UAV adopts a number of advanced technologies, and key performance indicators such as endurance, range and payload capacity have reached the domestic leading and international advanced level of UAVs of the similar caliber.
CASIC first disclosed the WJ-700 at Airshow China in Zhuhai in November 2018.
Based on a poster at the 2018 Zhuhai event, the WJ-700 has a maximum take-off weight of 3,500 kilograms, with a maximum endurance of 20 hours.
It is estimated that Chinese military-use UAV sales would take up around 25 percent of the global UAV market by 2024, or 17 billion yuan ($2.6 billion). The total revenue of Chinese military-use drones is expected to exceed 110 billion yuan in the next 10 years, the People’s Liberation Army publicity department wrote in an article on its WeChat public account on Tuesday.