China matches US Switchblade drone of Ukraine fame

China matches US Switchblade drone of Ukraine fame

China is touting its FH-901 committing suicide drone, which upon visual inspection seems quite like the Switchblade loitering munition the US has sent because military assistance to embattled Ukraine.

This particular month, Global Times cited a video showcasing military apparatus made by China Aerospace Science and Technologies Corporation during a discussion board. The video features live-fire exercises using armed reconnaissance drones such as the CH-4 and CH-5, with exotic models such as the CH-10 tilt-rotor drone and FH-901 loitering munition.

Part of the video displays the FH-901 fired from a mortar-like launcher. The drone then deploys its fins upon leaving the launch tube and is guided by the controllers to throw into the top of the tank target where its armor can be thinnest, obliterating this. The source also records that the FH-901 may also be launched from airplane and other drones.

Although information about the FH-901’s specifications are scant, defense site Global Security mentions which the drone is 1 . 2 meters lengthy, weighs nine kilos, has a 150-kilometers each hour top speed, 15-kilometer operation radius, and 120-minute flight endurance. In addition , the source notes it could be launched from a box and ready to use in three or more minutes.

Global Security mentions how the FH-901 can identify targets from one 5 kilometers from an altitude associated with 450 meters and may be armed with an anti-personnel fragmentation charge or a shaped charge capable of penetrating ten centimeters of shield.

Global Periods notes that Chinese military observers have called the FH-901 a counterpart to the US-made Switchblade drone, that has seen action within the ongoing Ukraine Battle.

China’s loitering drone system demonstrated in testing stage. Photo: Chinese web via Pakistan Defense

The particular FH-901 and Switchblade are examples of loitering munitions. They are fully autonomous weapons that can “search for, decide to engage, and participate targets on their own” in such a way that simply no human can intervene, since defined in a Tech Stream article .

Kelsey Atherton in Tech Flow contrasts loitering munitions with semi-autonomous homing missiles, noting that this latter requires human input and has short flight times. He mentions that even though AGM-88 anti-radiation missile and Harpy loitering munition are both made to attack air defense sites, the AGM-88 has 4. 5 mins between launch and detonation, with a range of 88 kilometers.

The particular Harpy, on the other hand, can search for targets for just two. 5 hours and may travel more than 482 kilometers.

Atherton notes that loitering munitions’ low quickness and extended air travel time make them more efficient than traditional missiles. He likens them to “airborne landmines, ” as they respond to preprogrammed environmental parameters that they can detect with their on-ship sensors.  

Against enemy shield, loitering munitions combine the deadliness associated with anti-tank missiles and drones’ persistent surveillance and targeting features.

In an article with regard to defense website Sandboxx , George Hand notes that anti-tank missiles such as TOW and Javelin are destructive but possess zero loiter period. However , he mentions that drones such as Raven and The puma corporation have formidable security capabilities but simply no attack capability whilst loitering munitions combine the best features of each into one formidable weapon.

The recent video showing was not the first time China has boasted about the FH-901. In September 2020, state-owned company Cina Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETGC) released a video of FH-901 drones, then known as the CH-901, becoming rapid-fired from a truck-mounted launcher and lowered from a helicopter. The particular drones then thought a swarm development and crashed in to practice targets.

China’s advances in loitering sac can enable this to fill in a market vacuum created by US restrictive policies on drone exports. Within an article for Air and Space Forces Magazine , Greg Hadley notes that the ALL OF US adheres to the 1987 Missile Technology Manage Regime (MTCR), which classifies unmanned systems as nuclear missiles.

As a result, proposed foreign army sales of US drones have frequently already been denied by the ALL OF US State Department, producing an increasingly untenable scenario as more states plus non-state actors industry drones.

Hadley notes that the United States’ continued fidelity to the MTCR’s category of drones offers paradoxically had the alternative effect of encouraging rather than preventing drone expansion. He notes that at least 95 countries operate drones, with 32 countries importing from China.

Given that situation, The far east can offer its FH-901 alternative to difficult-to-acquire ALL OF US loitering munitions. The particular sale of loitering sac could be a potentially attractive foreign policy device for China to help its strategic interests.

In the RAND guide China’s Arms Sales: Motivations and Implications , Daniel Blyman and Roger Cliff note that China’s interests in arms sales consist of strengthening the enemies from the adversaries, expanding its political influence in regions such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East, maintaining the defense industries plus stimulating domestic R& D by contending in foreign markets.

Aside from China, Israel, Chicken, Iran, and other players compete in the market for loitering munitions, which adds more to the chance of proliferation.

However , selling loitering sac to weak declares poses significant safety risks. A 2022 research by the Project upon International Peace and Security notes that poor regimes can use loitering munitions to maintain their own hold on power simply by deploying them towards protesters, regime opponents and regional rivals, opening more contested spaces with the risk of escalation.

The study notes how the best way to stop the proliferation of loitering munitions is to reclassify them as lighting weapons, a kampfstark difference from their classification under the MTCR.

Given this, this notes the success of that will approach in controlling man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which usually during the Cold War were considered too high-tech at the time due to features such as infrared imaging. But today, MANPADS are contained in all lists associated with light weapons due to their risk to civilian aviation.

An identical reclassification of loitering munitions into lighting weapons may pave the way for international efforts to limit their proliferation, which aims to reproduce international efforts in curbing MANPADS proliferation.