A new type of drone, apparently very fast, made its first public appearance in a rehearsal for a national celebration in Beijing on September 21, 2019.
The long and narrow unmanned aerial vehicle, supposedly designated DR-8, appears to be configured for supersonic flight. It is likely to be a reconnaissance ship.
The DR-8 appeared in a trailer during a rehearsal for the celebrations of October 1, 2019 in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The appearance of the reconnaissance drone in the trial drew attention in part because it vaguely resembles a supersonic UAV that was withdrawn by the United States more than four decades ago – the D-21.
The United States used the drone for espionage missions in China and several of them crashed during operations, leaving their remains scattered in various parts of the country.
One of the collapsed D-21s was exhibited at the Beijing Military Museum a few years ago.
The DR-8 reconnaissance drone has a role in assessing the impact of attack by the “aircraft carrier killer” of China, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, and the DF-26 ballistic missile.
According to Zhou Chenming, a military commentator based in Beijing, the DR-8 could travel faster than the D-21 – whose maximum speed is Mach 3.3 – letting it penetrate the enemy’s air defenses and return intact with intelligence.
The same test provided the first test of a new type of Chinese anti-ship missile. The H-6N variant of China’s venerable H-6 bomber, which is a clone of the Soviet Tu-16, first appeared in Beijing during preparations for the anniversary celebrations.
The H-6Ns have a gap under the fuselage that could accommodate a single very large missile. The new ammunition, possibly a variant of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, could pose a serious danger to United States Navy ships operating in the western Pacific.
Aircraft carriers, in particular, could be in danger.
The DF-21D is over 30 feet long and weighs about 32,000 pounds. You can travel up to 1,300 miles with a 1,200 pound warhead.
“Experts say there are at least four of these planes currently assigned to a bomber brigade of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in the Command region of the Central Theater of China,” wrote Joseph Trevithick in The War Zone.
China already has a wide range of anti-ship weapons, including air-launched cruise missiles and land-based DF-21Ds.
The appearance of the DR-8 and the H-6N that package a possible DF-21D launched from the air could suggest a new anti-ship capacity that could complement existing systems.
The H-6N would launch their DF-21D. The DR-8 could enter quickly to inspect the damage.
The Chinese army has already begun experimenting with the DR-8, Shanghai-based military commentator Shi Lao told the South China Morning Post.
“The People’s Liberation Army has been using the drone – which can reach strategic locations as far away as the Western Pacific, including Guam – for some time,” the newspaper reported, citing Shi. “In fact, this UAV [DR-8] went into service a while ago,” said Shi.
China is about to release other new military systems at the Beijing commemorations, including the unmanned aerial vehicle armed with the sharp sword. Sharp Sword is one of the oldest types of modern drones in China, which first appeared in the photos in 2013.
Powered by a single jet engine and supported by the landing gear of a tricycle, the Sharp Sword seems to have the shape of a flying wing shared by several prototypes of armed aircraft made in the United States.
The planar shape of the flying wing, also used by the US stealth bomber B-2, is ideal for radar evasion designs.
Beyond its basic form and its possible radar evasion qualities, not much is known about the apparent new drone.
But the Pentagon, in a 2013 report, warned that “the acquisition and development of long-range unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned combat aerial vehicles will increase China‘s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and attack operations.”