The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is showcasing a newly revealed jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – the Cloud Shadow.
Marketed as a high-altitude and long-endurance (HALE) UAV, the Cloud Shadow can be used for strike as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).
As per Shephard Media, the Cloud Shadow possesses a payload of 400 kg, cruising altitude of 14,000 m (i.e. 46,000 ft), a maximum speed of 620 km/h, and endurance of six hours. AVIC is offering the UAV with a standard line-of-sight radio connectivity suite, which offers a range of 290 km.
Notes & Comments:
Over the past five years, China has built and maintained a strong grasp of the UAV market outside of the U.S., Western Europe, and Far East Asia. Its principal ingredient of success was in providing various armed UAV designs, such as the CH-4, to countries the U.S. had been reluctant to supply (the MQ-1 Predator), such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others.
These countries have become AVIC’s essential armed UAV markets, hence it is not surprising to see the company offer substantially different solutions. The Cloud Shadow offers an opportunity to expand within the existing customer pool, and in some respects, potentially even expand the customer base.
The Cloud Shadow certainly puts the U.S.-led initiative to regulate armed drone sales into perspective. China is evidently committing a heavy amount of resources towards armed drone development, and when seeing the Cloud Shadow, it begs the question of how long it would be until an Avenger-like armed UAV – a HALE airframe with an internal weapons bay – is available on the market.
For its part, China has evidently opted to limit the actual capabilities of its designs in critical respects. For example, AVIC is only offering the Cloud Shadow with line-of-sight communication connectivity limited to 290 km, i.e. within the confines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). However, it is unlikely that Beijing will be stepping away from its valuable market gains.