"Sharp Sword" the Stealth Combat Drone
The Chinese Lijian, aka "Sharp Sword", made its first test flight today. It flew for 20min at an undisclosed testing base without any discernible issues and has understandably put the world on notice.
This new stealth drone resembles the Northrop Grumman X-47B drone, which the U.S. Navy has been testing for its carrier based operations. The Lijian is said to have a wingspan of 46 feet, which is smaller than the 62-foot wingspan of the X-47B. It is powered by a single jet engine, presumed to be the Shenyang WP7 used for the J-7 fighter. With the WP7 engine, the Lijian’s ordnance payload might not exceed the 4,400lb capacity of the X-47B. The Chinese CM-506 small diameter bomb, showcased at Airshow China 2012, is one of the weapons being recommended for the Lijian. It has a range of 80 miles against acquired targets.
Military observers however, have noted that China has had difficulty in their engine development. The exposed engine of the Lijian resembles a Russian turbofan which experts believe will reduce its radar evading capabilities.
The test flight of the "Sharp Sword" unmanned aircraft is another step in a years-long military build-up. It follows on the heels of the J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters currently being developed. China's defense spending is now the second highest in the world and growing by double-digit percentages each year.
Below are pictures of both the Lijian and the X-47B.