China's Newest Knockoff Predator Drone Takes to the Skies

Illustration for article titled Chinas Newest Knockoff Predator Drone Takes to the Skies

China's getting into the UAV game in a big way. Well, really, the only way it knows how: by closely mimicking the existing technology of a foreign power and slapping a new name on it. Say hello to the MQ-1 Preda—I mean, Cai Hong-4 "Rainbow".

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Designed and constructed by state-owned aircraft manufacturer China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), this multipurpose drone, officially known as the Cai Hong-4 (CH-4), is a jack-of-all-trades for China's fledgling UAV efforts.

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It measures 29 feet long with a wingspan twice that, which allows the CH-4 to remain aloft for up to 38 hours at heights up over 26,000 feet. This makes it ideal for a variety of surveillance and patrol operations. It can also carry up to 760 pounds of bombs and missiles—capable of attacking both land and sea targets with a 5-foot accuracy radius—which enables the platform to switch from ISR to strike missions without landing and re-equipping.

"During acceleration and deceleration, the drone kept taxing on a central line on the runway," CASC Rainbow No.4 Project head Li Pingkun told ChinaNews. "It's well-positioned to carry out the subsequent missions. The test flight was very successful today."

The slightly smaller MQ-1 Predator's 15m wings can only help it muster a height of 25,000 with 24 hour endurance, but the CH-4 also boasts a reputed range of 2,100 miles compared to the MQ-1's relatively paltry 460. Of course, the MQ-1 is also a battle-hardened war machine with more than 2 million hours of flight time under its belt. The CH-4, on the other hand, just completed its first flight ever last weekend so who knows if it will actually hold up to its spec sheet. [CNTV - China Economic Net - Defense Aerospace]

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I'm no armchair officer, but I've always wondered if these copy cat items are as bad as people joke them to be, they obviously have direct access to our plans, so it cant be that difficult to copy something like this right?