Air Weapons: China Proliferates


October 17, 2017: In 2017 China announced that it had developed two new laser guided missiles for use on UAVs, helicopters and fixed wing warplanes. The smaller one is the AR-2, which is a copy of the American APKWS. AR-2 weighs 17 kg (40 pounds) with a five kg warhead and 8 kilometer range. APKWS is a smaller Hellfire type design based on World War II era 70mm unguided rockets that is proving very useful. This mini-Hellfire is basically a 13.6 kg (30 pound) 70mm rockets, with a laser seeker, flight controls, a 2.7 kg (six pound) warhead, and a range of about six kilometers.

The other new Chinese missile is an 80 kg (176 pound) missile that apparently has, in addition to laser guidance, a new LOBL (Lock-On Before Launch) capability that uses some new targeting system features of the larger Chinese UAVs (like the CH-4, CH-5 and GJ-1) and probably involves “fire and forget” capabilities as used in the British Brimstone.

China has always offered Chinese made weapons for their larger UAVs. Chief among these are a Hellfire clone, the AR-1. This is a 45 kg (99 pound) missile with a max range of 10 kilometers and a 10 kg (22 pound) warhead. AR-1 can be equipped with either GPS or laser guidance. AR-1 first showed up in the late 1990s as the HJ-10. That missile, as is the Chinese custom, evolved into several different, but similar, weapons. The AR-1 and BA-7 are most often offered for use on UAVs as a Hellfire substitute.

The need for these new lightweight missiles was prompted by the growing demand for Chinese UAVs that can use them. In early 2106 China began marketing a new combat UAV in the “Rainbow” series; the CH-5. This one is similar to the 4.6 ton American MQ-9 Reaper but a bit lighter at three tons. The CH-5 has a 900 kg payload and can carry smart (GPS guided) bombs as well as laser guided missiles (similar to the American Hellfire). CH-5 made its first flight in 2015, apparently has endurance of up to twenty hours and is supposed to be available for delivery in 2017. Promotional materials stress the large quantity and variety of guided weapons these larger UAVs can carry. For example in addition to all those laser guided missiles China also offers their version of the American SDB (small diameter bomb) which is a 128 kg (281 pound) GPS guided glide bomb in the shape of a missile with a penetrating warhead. The Chinese version is the FT-5 and is a 100 kg (220 pound) GPS guided bomb also shaped like a missile.

China encourages its many UAV and missile manufacturers to make their weapons and UAV targeting systems interchangeable to increase the options available to potential customers. This has worked out quite well and that accounts for the strong export sales of Chinese UAVs and a growing array of Chinese sensors and weapons to equip these drones with.




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