China’s coolest-looking military drone enters production
New Xianglongs on the way
By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer
The Xianglong “Soar Dragon” UAV, one of the more distinct looking drones in the world, is now in serial production. Built by the Guizhou Aircraft Corporation, is one of China’s largest UAVs. Its unique “closed” tandem wings (giving it a diamond shape when viewed from above or below) are not just for show. They increase its flight endurance and high altitude performance by reducing wingtip drag. A July 2016 picture showing a JL-9 trainer jet at GAC assembly plant had three Xianglong UAVs in the background, in various states of completion.
The Xianglong gives China a large UAV capability in the category of the US made RQ-4 Global Hawk. Surpassed only in size by the Divine Eagle double bodied UAV, it is about twelve meters in length, with a twenty meter wingspan and a 10-12 ton maximum takeoff weight (measurements are all approximations). The operational Xianglong is likely to be used for maritime surveillance of foreign bases and warships, as part of the anti-access/area denial kill chain. Its long flight time and large sensor payload, in particular, could allow it to follow aircraft carriers, while vacuuming up a wealth of data, for extended periods of time. Read more