The China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology (CAEIT) recently tested launching suicide drones in several different ways, according to new footage of the drills.
In the September test, tubular drones with spring-loaded folding wings were launched from a large box launcher on the back of a Dongfeng Mengshi 6x6 truck. The rectangular launcher has 48 tubes arranged in four rows of 12, giving it the appearance of a multiple rocket launcher. The footage also shows a drone of the same type being dropped from a helicopter. In both launches, the drone’s wings burst from the breakaway casing, and the craft took to the skies after being fired.
In one scene, close to a dozen of the drones can be seen swarming in the sky. In a combat situation, the devices would be able to loiter above the battlefield until a target appears - hence their other name of “loitering munition.” The final part of the video shows a drone homing in on a target.
Little information about the drill is available, but the drones seen in the film seem very similar to the CH-901, one of two kinds of loitering munitions the PLA said earlier this year it was developing. According to the Global Times, the CH-901 is 1.2 meters long, weighs 9 kilograms, can fly up to 150 kilometers per hour and can loiter in the skies for two hours. However, these could be modified versions or a totally different system.
CAEIT is part of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned firm that adapts civilian electronics for military applications. In May 2018, the company set a new record by coordinating a swarm of 200 fixed-wing drones at once, Yicai reported.
Suicide drones have topped the Pentagon’s list of concerns since dozens of the devices paralyzed the Saudi oil industry during a pair of attacks in September 2019 that were claimed by the Yemeni Houthi movement, but blamed by US intelligence on Iran. Washington has set about creating several close-range anti-air systems to take on drones, including vehicle-mounted systems like the proposed Direct Fire Defeat System, which would be fitted on US Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and the Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD), a modified Stryker armored vehicle carrying anti-air missiles.