PLA Chinese CH-4 Rainbow UCAV combat UAV detected near Taiwan for first time

Matt Yu and Ko Lin report in Focus Taiwan that two Chinese aircraft flew into the southwestern part of Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, September 17, one of which was a CH-4 Rainbow unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), reportedly detected for the first time operating near Taiwan. The other was a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
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CH-4 UAV showcased at China AirShow in November 2012. The CH-4 model shown during this exhibition was armed with two AR-1 short-range ground-to-air missiles and two FT-5 guided bombs (Picture source: Army Recognition)

These two aircraft were among 20 Chinese military aircraft and five naval ships detected in the vicinity of Taiwan that day. The Ministry of National Defense added that it scrambled combat air and naval patrols and deployed defense missile systems in response. However, the ministry did not disclose the flight paths of the other 18 aircraft or the locations of the naval vessels.

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Map showing the Chinese CH-4 Rainbow UCAV and Y8 ASW airplane’s flightpath (Source: Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Caihong 4 (Rainbow 4, or CH-4), is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE)-class, strike-capable reconnaissance platform that was developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) on the basis of the previous model, the CH-3. According to its developer, the CH-4 has better basic performance than that of the U.S.-based General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, and is more efficient in reconnaissance, surveillance, and strike missions.

Chinese aviation defense industry launched the CH-4 MALE UAV at the 9th AirShow China in Zhuhai, demonstrating China’s efforts in designing and manufacturing new generations of UAVs. There are two variants of this new UAV: the CH-4A and the CH-4B. Both of them have a similar appearance and construction, but with more options of combat mission payloads. It can carry up to 4 AGMs (AR-1) or 4 precision-guided bombs (60 kg level each), providing unparalleled battle effectiveness to time-sensitive targets. The CH-4 model showed at AirShow China 2012 was armed with two AR-1 short-range ground-to-air missiles and two FT-5 guided bombs.

The self-developed CH-4 drone with a heavy-fuel engine completed scientific research tests in which it successfully carried out autonomous takeoff and landing, waypoint flight, full load transportation and tests under maximum flight altitudes and endurance. The heavy-fuel engine used in the upgraded CH-4 drone was completely domestically made from development to production, said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the CH series drone.

The engine offers low fuel consumption, long flight endurance and a wide range of application environments, Shi said. "With the new heavy-fuel aviation engine, the drone can remain in the sky for significantly longer, fly further, and reach higher cruise altitudes and ceilings. Its payload capacity has also increased by 30 to 50 percent", Shi said.

Defense News September 2022