The Peoples Liberation Army is actively exploring the application of mass drone deployment in future ground combat.
State owned, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), had in 2018 demonstrated an earlier eight-tube launcher using its CH-901 loitering drone.
The more recent system shows a box configured launching system integrated onto the rear of a Dongfeng Mengshi 6×6 light tactical vehicle. Equipped with 48 launch tubes each accepts a drone with a pair of spring-loaded folding fins which extend upon leaving the pod. The CH-901 uses a two-blade pusher propellor and can remain airborne for up to 40 minutes. It has either a high explosive fragmentation or shaped charge anti-armour warhead.
This drone design itself appears like the Raytheon Coyote and AeroVironment Switchblade fielded by US forces. CETC reports that the drone possesses a “multifunction processing unit for swarm intelligence. The unit is intended to provide flight controls, mission planning, intelligent decision-making, target recognition and networking between drones.”
Testing carried out, according to the Chinese web site Duowei News was intended to demonstrate the deployment, launching, hovering, formation and targeting by the system.
This 48-tube configuration reflect the possibility of a massed employment of armed drones, often referred to as “swarms”. Several drones will be launched toward a targeted area with each then acquiring and directly attacking a specific target. By attacking simultaneously in large numbers, it is anticipated that the effectiveness of countermeasures will be reduced.
Although the CH-0901 drone has been available since 2018 this is the first sighting of this ground launcher model. Its fielding status with the PLA is yet to be confirmed.