Warplanes: March 20, 2005


Chinese UAV designs are a decade or more behind the West. The most common one used is the AN-105, a 374 pound aircraft with a payload if 88 pounds. Each UAV units has six of these, and half a dozen trucks to carry the aircraft, radio control equipment and even a film processing lab. Yup, they still use film, although that is likely to change rapidly because digital cameras are so cheap, and Chinese companies are making more and more of them. But the Chinese army is still a low budget operation, and old equipment is kept in service a lot longer than in the West. Even when older gear, like UAVs, are retired from military service, they are usually handed over to civilian or paramilitary organizations. Older UAVs are being used for border patrol and land survey (checking on crops and infrastructure.) For the moment, the Chinese treat UAVs like pilotless reconnaissance aircraft. But senior officers are aware of Israeli and American troops using them in real time, with infantry and tank crews getting overhead real time video from UAVs above. It will be a while before the Chinese can afford that. 


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