China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, the nation's largest missile-maker, has begun to develop military drones that can evade radar and anti-aircraft weapons.
The company is focusing on the development of a long-endurance stealth drone and a near-space drone, said Wei Yiyin, CASIC deputy general manager and a member of the CPPCC National Committee.
It's all part of CASIC's determination to become a world-class provider of unmanned aircraft and related services, Wei told China Daily.
"As military reforms are drastically changing armed forces around the world, drones have become an indispensable weapon in modern warfare because they can play an important role in high-resolution reconnaissance, long-distance precision strikes, anti-submarine operations and aerial combat," Wei said.
Within the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, CASIC will strive to develop technologies for long-endurance stealth drones, complete the design of high-speed combat/reconnaissance drones and use these new products to tap domestic and international markets. The company also plans to make multipurpose, stealth target aircraft used for training, he added.
The most popular Chinese military drones on the international market are the CH family, made by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, and Aviation Industry Corp of China's Wing Loong-series.
CH drones have been sold to militaries in more than 10 countries, and the Wing Loong II, which made its maiden flight last week, has captured the largest contract ever signed for a Chinese export drone.
CASIC has put the WJ-500, WJ-600 and WJ-600A/D military drones on the market. Unlike other Chinese drones, which resemble fixed-wing planes with landing gear, CASIC drones all resemble a cruise missile.
The company is the only producer of cruise missiles in China.
CASIC's drones are launched from a vehicle and retrieved after descending by parachute.
The newest WJ-600A/D has an ultrafast cruising speed of 700 km/h, while other Chinese drones can reach only 280 km/h as their top speed. The WJ-600A/D has a stealth design－it appears to be a bird on radar, according to CASIC's Unmanned Aircraft Institute.
CASIC is also interested in near-space drones. Near space is that part of Earth's atmosphere at altitudes of 20 to 100 kilometers, encompassing portions of the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere. It is above the top altitudes of commercial airliners but below orbiting satellites.
CASIC has sold its drones and drone-based services to geological survey and maritime authorities, according to Ma Hongzhong, director of the institute.