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Maiden test flight proves successful for new drone

By ZHAO LEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-15 08:54

WJ-700 combat/reconnaissance drone CHINA DAILY

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a leading defense contractor, conducted the maiden test flight of what it called one of the country's best unmanned strike aircraft earlier this week.

The nation's largest missile-maker CASIC said in a statement that the WJ-700 combat/reconnaissance drone made its debut flight on Monday at an unidentified airport in Northeast China. The maiden flight verified the plane's overall design and its subsystems' compatibility.

Next, the drone will carry out more test flights to examine its flight, reconnaissance and combat capabilities, it said, noting the product will be available to both domestic and foreign buyers once it enters the market.

The State-owned conglomerate called the WJ-700 "the first and only high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance combat/reconnaissance drone in China", adding that there is a very small group of similar products in the international market.

Research and development of the drone started in March 2018 at the CASIC Third Academy, a Beijing-based subsidiary specializing in anti-ship and cruise missiles as well as unmanned aircraft. Designers intended to build an advanced model for beyond-visual-range precision strikes against land targets, ships and air-defense weapons, and also for long-range surveillance and reconnaissance. In addition, it will be capable of fulfilling early-warning or electronic jamming tasks when mounted with related devices, according to the statement.

Liu Liu, the WJ-700's chief designer, told China Daily on Thursday that the model is made of composite materials and is equipped with advanced instruments such as a fly-by-wire control system, highly integrated avionics and a high-bypass-ratio turbofan engine.

He said the drone is better than most of its type in the global market when it comes to operational duration, flight range and carrying capacity.

The WJ-700 has a maximum takeoff weight of 3.5 metric tons and is able to stay airborne for as long as 20 hours, according to Liu.

Ma Hongzhong, a senior manager at CASIC Third Academy, previously said that the drone's operational speeds range from 500 to 600 kilometers per hour, and its maximum speed is 700 km/h. The operational flight ceiling is 12 km, he added.

An aviation industry insider who wished to be identified as Wu said that the WJ-700 is suitable for time-sensitive missions, and its aerial capabilities will make it almost unbeatable against short-range air defense weapons like shoulder-launched missiles that are widely used in developing countries and areas of conflict.

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