A pair of grainy photos shot at long distance could be the best evidence yet of Beijing’s first jet-powered and presumably armed drone warplane.
The images, one of which was cropped and enhanced by Internet users and has been reproduced here, first appeared to the wider English-speaking world on Thursday afternoon on the Secretprojects.co.uk web forum.
The pics follow close behind the equally ambiguous photo debuts of China’s two stealth fighter prototypes (in 2010 and 2012) and its homegrown heavy transport plane (this year). A far blurrier and even more ambiguous photo possibly depicting the new drone appeared on a Russian Website in March.
“What’s Chinese for, ‘Here we go again?’” Aviation Week reporter Bill Sweetman quipped upon seeing the purported killer drone images.
Consensus among China watchers is that the vehicle depicted in the photos is the Lijian, or “Sharp Sword,” Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, a collaboration between Chinese aerospace firms Shenyang and Hongdu.
Powered by a single jet engine and resting on tricycle landing gear, the Sharp Sword UCAV seems to sport the flying-wing shape shared by several U.S.-made killer drones prototypes.
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