China’s domestically developed Rainbow NO.4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has successfully completed its maiden test flight and simulation target practice at an undisclosed location.

Manufactured by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), Rainbow NO.4 is a reconnaissance and strike drone, and represents a major step forward for China’s unmanned technology.

CASC Rainbow No.4 Project head Li Pingkun was quoted by as saying: "The test flight was very successful today.

"During acceleration and deceleration, the drone kept taxing on a central line on the runway. It’s well-positioned to carry out the subsequent missions."

Also known as the Cai Hong-4 (CH-4), Rainbow No.4 is designed to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, border patrol, island defence and anti-terrorism missions, as reported by WantChinaTimes.

Armed with guided missiles and bombs, the drone is capable of striking both land and sea targets with a margin of error of less than 1.5m, and can also be used for civilian applications, such as emergency communications, geological mapping and exploration.

However, the UAV should be around airspace near its target to enable precise real-time reconnaissance or a sudden strike.

"The test flight was very successful today, and it is well-positioned to carry out the subsequent missions."

Li said: "To ensure sudden strike, we designed a very long wing of 18m, while the drone body is only 9m.

"This would improve its lift, and reduce drone weight."

The UAV is often compared to the US military’s MQ-1 Predator, but China claims that it is more superior than the General Atomics-built platform.

CASC researcher Chen Hongxin was quoted by WantChinaTimes as saying that the CH-4 has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,330kg, a maximum payload of 345kg, a service ceiling of 8,000m, a maximum range of 3,500km, and an endurance of 38h.

In comparison, the Predator has a wingspan of 15m, an effective maximum payload of 204kg, a service ceiling of 7,600m, a maximum range of 1,100m and can stay airborne for one day.

The UAV is also believed to have participated in the recent multinational Peace Mission 2014 exercise in Inner Mongolia.

Defence Technology