China provides sneak peek of improved stealth UAV

Tian Ying
Tian Ying (Credit: JR Ng)

Video imagery released by state-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in late February has revealed that further development work has been carried out on the Tianying (Sky Hawk) uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV).

According to CCTV commentary, improvements to the UAV include enhanced stealth and range performance. It added that flight-testing has also commenced following these upgrades, showing footage of the air vehicle in flight with its tricycle landing gear in wheels-down position.

Visual changes on the upgraded UAV include revised wing aileron surfaces and what appear to be a new conformal antenna.

The Sky Hawk UAV is an internally funded development by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the country’s leading manufacturer of precision and strategic missile systems.

CASIC first unveiled the prototype technology demonstrator to the public for the first time in late 2018 since it announced a successful series of trials earlier in that year.

An internally funded development, the Tianying has a maximum take-off weight of 6,614lbs (3,000kg) and adopts a low-observable flying wing design comparable to Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance UAV. The air vehicle is believed to have conducted at least three successful test flights after development commenced.

“Eighty percent of our UAV’s technologies are the newest and most advanced, some of which are leading the global UAV industry,” Ma Hongzhong, chief designer of the Tianying earlier stated in an interview hosted on the company’s official WeChat account. Ma noted that the advanced technologies applied in the air vehicle have been matured through extensive ground testing.

CASIC has yet to disclose detailed information about the Tianying, but it appears that the air vehicle could be aimed at aircraft carrier operations considering its relatively compact wingspan of approximately 11m.

“The Sky Hawk UAV is used to perform strategic and tactical close-in reconnaissance of important targets in high-threat combat environments,” CASIC stated.

“It is capable of long-endurance flight, and autonomous wheeled take-offs and landings,” the company added.

by Jr Ng