Words by John Hinckley.
State media reported Friday that China has tested its first stealth combat drone. Several online photos have surfaced and the overall consensus is that it has a strong resemblance to a shrunken US B2 bomber.
China became the fourth nation to successfully fly a stealth unmanned vehicle when Lijian, or “sharp sword” in English, completed its first test flight. The test flight lasted about 20 minutes according to several news outlets.
The successful test of this unmanned drone aircraft is just another step as China continues to build up its military. Defense spending in China is now the second-highest in the world, second only to the United States.
It is thought that the Sharp Sword will be used for eventual use aboard an aircraft carrier and for “long-endurance” surveillance missions. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the US-based think tank International Assessment and Strategy Center, says the development of this drone “will greatly complicate the defense” of other countries. It also demonstrates the huge investment that China is making in order to become a world-class military power.
A drone was at the center of a recent spat between China and Japan, whose dispute over islands known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese has raised concerns of conflict.
An unidentified unmanned aircraft flew near the islands in September, where China routinely conducts maritime patrols, which caused Japan to scramble fighter jets. Japan threatened to shoot down any such aircraft. China warned a move like that would be considered an "act of war”.
However, it does come with its imperfections. Andrei Chang, Hong Kong-based military expert, has said the aircraft’s design was “a little bit naïve”. The engine appears to be exposed in the Chinese version, which can reduce its stealth capabilities.
The China Daily reports that the aircraft was developed by two subsidiaries of Aviation Industry Corp of China, which is the country’s top aircraft manufacturer.