China has completed its first successful stealth drone test, according to China state media today.
“The successful flight shows the nation has again narrowed the air-power disparity between itself and Western nations,” China Daily newspaper said. The newspaper attributed confirmation to photographs taken by military fans.
Military expert Andrei Chang told the AFP the design appeared a “little naïve,” but if successful would indeed mark a milestone for China.
Lijian, or Sharp Sword, was reportedly produced by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, but the information office has not yet confirmed the test.
News of the 20-minute test on Thursday in southwest China and photographs of Lijian first appeared on cjdby.net, a popular military forum.
Lijian’s test makes China the fourth nation to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Online reports suggest it is a delta-wing, single engine drone. It has been compared to both the Northrop Grumman-made X-47 series used by the U.S. Navy and the Russian MiG Skat drone.
Wang Ya’nan, the deputy editor in chief at Aerospace Knowledge Magazine, told China Daily the drone seems to be equipped with the RD-93, a Russian turbofan engine originally designed for a fighter jet.
“The drone, which is capable of flying undetected at high altitudes while providing high-resolution video and other intelligence, will let maritime departments keep abreast of developments in the East and South China seas and will help Beijing make accurate decisions when dealing with territorial disputes with its neighbors, ” Xu Guangyu, a former PLA major general told the SCMP.
The most recent Pentagon report on the Chinese military, published in May, alluded to Lijian.
“The acquisition and development of longer range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles…and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles, will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations.”
The announcement comes as tensions over disputed territories in the East China Sea between China and Japan continue. In September Japan cited a UAV flying near the disputed islands and scrambled fighter jets, with Tokyo later warning it would shoot down future aircraft in the same space.