China starts mass production of US' MQ-9 reaper rival drone

19 Jul 2017 | By Abheet Sethi

China has started producing the CH-5 Rainbow heavy military drone commercially, which is considered a rival of America's unmanned combat aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper.

Wang Song, a professor of aeronautics at China's Beihang University, said the first mass-produced CH-5 Rainbow took flight.

Song said CH-5 Rainbow costs half as much as the MQ-9 Reaper and that China plans to export it.

In context: China's armed combat drone

19 Jul 2017China starts mass production of US' MQ-9 reaper rival drone

CH-5's capabilitiesCH-5 can conduct reconnaissance, strike missions and more

The CH-5 has a wingspan of 21 meters and can carry a payload of up to 1,000 kg. The drone, which has a 10,000-kilometer range, can fly for up to 60 hours.

The drone can conduct military reconnaissance, surveillance, patrol, target positioning and strike missions.

It also has civilian uses, including resource surveying, marine environmental protection, disaster survey, marine law enforcement and emergency responses.

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CH-4 lags behind US reaper due to weaker engine

Comparison CH-4 lags behind US reaper due to weaker engine

Unlike the American Reaper which flies at a height of 12,000 to 15,000-meters, the Chinese CH-5 can't operate higher than 9,000-meters.

This makes the CH-5 vulnerable to anti-aircraft weapons.

Beihang University's Wang said the CH-5's low ceiling is due to a relatively weak engine.

Wang noted that China lags behind the West in aircraft engine technology, a weakness for all Chinese fighter planes.

China considers exporting CH-5

The American Reaper costs $16.9 million, making it the world's most expensive combat drones. The Chinese CH-5 will reportedly cost less than half of that. "We believe it will be a success in domestic and international markets," said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the Rainbow drone project.