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China’s largest High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drone, the WZ-7 Soar Dragon was deployed for the first time by the Chinese armed forces to conduct live combat training.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is considered to be one of the largest ones around the globe.
During a recent exercise involving multi-type aircraft, by giving full play to its advantages of high-altitude and long-endurance capability, the WZ-7 HALE drone quickly captured target traces based on battlefield situation and uploaded the acquired information to the command post, thus providing strong support for the airborne fighter groups to carry out penetration and assault operations.
The WZ-7 features a tandem/diamond-wing design, a single jet engine, AI-enabled networking and sensor fusion, highly encrypted jamming resistant data links to share battlefield information with fighting forces and ISR links with Chinese satellites.
Experts believe that assets like the WZ-7 and the J-16D – a new type of electronic warfare aircraft – will be used in tandem, where surveillance information gathered by the WZ-7, will be shared with the J-16D.
The J-16D, which has large electronic warfare (EW) pods on both its wingtips, would accompany other aircraft in their missions and provide EW support like jamming, deception, and even signals intelligence (SIGINT) or intelligence-gathering by interception of signals.
The WZ-7 will be used by the Chinese armed forces to conduct reconnaissance missions but according to Chinese military sources, it could be equipped with sensors suitable for designating naval vessels for targeting by anti-ship ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
The drone can provide data for ballistic missile launcher units such as the DF-21D.
The WZ-7 is powered by a Guizhou WP-13 turbojet engine mounted at the rear of the drone while the air intake for the engine is mounted on the upper part of the fuselage.
The drone will be able to reach a cruise speed of 750 km/h with a maximum range of 7,000 km. It has a length of 14.33 m, a wingspan of 24.86 m, and a height of 5.41m. The WZ-7 has a flight endurance of 10 hours and a payload capacity of 650 kg.
The drone was showcased at the Zhuhai Airshow in September 2021. Another aircraft showcased was the WZ-8 supersonic drone.
Little official information exists about the WZ-8, which was first shown at a military parade in Beijing in 2019.
The WZ-8 is powered by a pair of rocket engines, and is described as being able to operate at “near-space” altitudes. It is used to conduct reconnaissance of strategic, high-value targets, to aid in providing pre-strike targeting information for long-range missile attacks, or carrying out post-strike assessments.
Both of these show that China is steadily improving its capability in every possible direction of warfare, be it ground, air, naval and cyber, manned or unmanned.