Footage of China's CH-4B armed drone has hit the Internet, and provides some interesting insights into the unmanned aircraft. The video shows off the various capabilities of the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone, from surveillance to attack. The drone also bears a striking resemblance to the American Reaper drone, which fulfills the exact same missions.
The video, posted on YouTube, shows the uncanny resemblance between the and the CH-4B. The two aircraft appear identical, save for a ventral stabilizer on the bottom rear of the Reaper that doesn't appear on the CH-4B. The Chinese aircraft is made by CASC, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
Like the Reaper, the CH-4B has a nose-mounted sensor turret incorporating both daytime and infra-red cameras. The cameras are capable of zooming on target and appear stabilized. The sensor turret also apparently has a laser rangefinder and designator.
The Chinese drone also has for carrying up to 770 pounds of munitions, including the laser-guided air-to-surface missile, TG-100 laser, inertial or GPS-guided bombs, and the HJ-10 anti-tank missile. This also mirrors the Reaper, which can carry the Hellfire anti-tank missile, Paveway laser-guided bomb, and JDAM satellite-guided bombs.
Still, the CH-4B is an inferior performer compared to the Reaper. The Reaper has seven outboard stations compared to the CH-4B's six, and can carry five times as much ordnance. The two aircraft still have the same endurance, each capable of staying in the air for up to 14 hours. This suggests that the Chinese unmanned airplane has weaker engines than the American version, and sacrificed payload for loiter capability. That's a smart move on CASC's part, as armed drones may find it necessary to remain on station above a target for hours before unleashing their weapons.
One interesting observation from the video: much of the information displayed to the operator is in English. The different camera modes are shown in English in the far upper left corner, including "TV" for regular daytime camera view and "IR" for infra-red night vision. The top center of the operator's view space seems to display the directional heading of the sensor turret. The top right displays the distance to a target in the crosshairs, expressed in meters, with the letters "LRT"—probably referring to laser rangefinding and targeting.
If the video—posted by a well known China watcher—is legitimate, it begs the question whether or not software and other technology originally from the United States and other western countries is flying on Chinese military aircraft. An alternate explanation is that the drones shown in the video are meant for export to countries where English is preferred. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Egypt have all purchased the CH-4B.