Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Beijing, China (4E) – China has developed and is now selling on the world arms market a weapon not exported by the United States: missile-armed, unmanned autonomous (or drone) helicopters.
These combat drone helos were on display at the China Helicopter Exposition held last week inTianjin. Over 400 helicopters from 22 countries and regions were displayed at the expo.
Chinese state-owned media said the AV500W unmanned autonomous helicopter displayed at Tianjin is the first Chinese military drone helicopter available in the world market.
All of the helicopter’s tests will be finished before the end of this year and AV500W will be ready for mass-production in 2018. The drone’s target market will be countries dealing with terrorism such as those in the Middle East.
Developed by state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the AV500W can deploy four radar guided air-to-ground missiles. Each missile weighs 8 kg and can hit a target 5 km away, claims AVIC. It also can carry bombs or a machine-gun pod.
AV500W is capable of carrying 120 kg of weapons and equipment. Its reconnaissance version can remain aloft for eight hours while the reconnaissance/combat model can fly four hours.
The 7.2 meter-long helo has a maximum takeoff weight of 450 kg; a maximum speed of 170 km/h and a flight ceiling of 4,000 meters.
AV500W was developed and built at the AVIC Helicopter Research and Development Institute in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province.
AVIC claims the helicopter features good mobility; penetration capability and a high level of automation. It also claims the AV500W has a stealth design.
A typical mission for the AV500W is precision attacks on targets such as light armored vehicles and personnel.
“The helicopter is able to take off and land on almost any landform including plateaus and canyons,” said Jiang Taiyu, one of the chief designers of the AV500W.
“It can operate in cold and tropical environments. It will be useful in border patrols, counterterrorism operations and low-intensity conflicts because it can carry out very-low-altitude penetration and keep hovering for a while.”
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