The CASC CH-4 is a dedicated Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), developed and produced in China.
It is, at least externally, a copy of General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The only distinction between the two is the ventral fin below the V-tail on MQ-9, which is absent on the CH-4.
There are two versions, the CH-4A and CH-4B.
The CH-4A is a reconnaissance drone (capable of a 3500–5000 km range and a 30- to 40-hour endurance).
The CH-4B is a mixed attack and reconnaissance system with provisions for 6 weapons and a payload of up to 250 to 345 kg.
CH-4 is capable of firing air-to-ground missile from altitude of 5,000 meters, therefore the aircraft can stay outside of effective range of most anti-aircraft guns. It also allows CH-4 to be able to fire from a position that provides wider viewing area.
One of the international buyers of the CH-4 UCAV is the UAE, and on December 22nd, Yemen’s Houthis announced that its forces had shot down a Chinese-made CH4 unmanned combat aerial vehicle operated by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The incident took place in the province of Marib.
The CH4 was conducting strikes in support of pro-Saudi-forces, which are on retreat under pressure from the Houthis and their local allies.
Earlier in 2020, in March, despite the pandemic, the Global Times reported that the CH-4 UCAV “one of the top selling armed reconnaissance drones in the world developed by China, has now resumed as the novel coronavirus epidemic is being brought under control in the country.”
A workshop was seen full of drones being assembled, as analysts predicted the CH-4 will see great demand in the international market in 2020.
One of the photos showed at least eight CH-4 drones being assembled in one large workshop, with no space left to spare in the facility. The drones were seemingly in different stages of assembly, as drones on one side were near completion and those on the other side had just started and were just frames that had no paint and no electronic devices installed.
Global Times also described why that is happening:
“Drones are becoming increasingly popular in regional conflicts around the world, and Chinese companies can offer them at very reasonable prices, offering good performances and after-sales services and not attaching political conditions, which are all advantages they have over Western countries’ products.
The CH drones are particularly popular as they are very easy to operate and do not require very intensive and professional training.”
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