Chinese army PLA to get suicide drones

The Chinese army is procuring two types of loitering munitions, also known as suicide drones, a kind of weapon that can offer a wide variety of new tactics to the troops, analysts said on March 11. Huang Panyue reports on Chinamil.

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Chinese-made suicide drone CH-901 at SOFEX 2018, Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference held in Amman, Jordan (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The People’s Liberation Army is procuring two different types of loitering munitions, according to a statement released on, the Chinese military's weapon and equipment procurement website, on Monday. No further details were given about the procurement, including the specifics on the weapons' performance or number to be purchased, as the procurement is listed as confidential.

This kind of weapon is considered a mixture of a cruise missile and a drone, reported Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, on Tuesday. After taking off, it can remain in the air for an extended period of time for battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance like a drone, but after locating a target, it can launch a suicide attack like a missile, according to Weihutang.

Some types of suicide drones can return to base for future deployment if they do not find a target, Weihutang said. Suicide drones can provide a wide variety of tactics, with the most useful being attacking time-sensitive targets, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Wednesday. It can fly to a general area in advance, seek its target while waiting, and attack immediately when it finds the target, the expert said, noting that a missile will need time to launch and travel, which could result in missing the opportunity, and the suicide drone is also cheaper than an armed reconnaissance drone. Launching the suicide drone in advance also means that the enemy will have a harder time locating where it was launched from, the expert said.

Chinese arms companies have already developed many types of suicide drones, including the CH-901 and WS-43. The CH-901 suicide drone is intended to combine the advantages of a drone and a bomb and can hover for 40 minutes before swooping down on a target. It can be used by special forces during counter-terrorism operations.

The CH-901 is a portable killer drone that weighs 9 kg and can be easily carried by a single soldier and launched from the field to track down and attack opponents. The CH-901 suicide drone can be fitted with a warhead or a camera to perform reconnaissance missions and locate enemy positions. The CH-901 can fly at a speed from 7 to 120 km/h with a range of 10 km.

The CH-901 can be armed with a fragmentation charge or a shaped charge warhead capable of penetrating 10 cm of armor and destroying tanks and light armored vehicles. The CH-901 is able to detect targets at a range of more than 1.5 km from an altitude of 450 m. The CH-901 is launched from a container and can be ready to use in less than 3 minutes.


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