CHINA has developed a world-first stealth drone capable of flying for extended periods of time and hitting targets with extreme precision completely undetected.
The craft, named Sharp Sword, is part of a new generation of unmanned combat air vehicles, and is thought to be capable of evading current US defence systems.
It was unveiled at China National Day parade on October 1, when president Xi Jinping declared that “no force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead”.
The craft is similar in appearance to the Predator drone used by the US since 1995, but its wing design and the concealment of components like its exhaust gives it enhanced stealth capabilities.
The fact it is unmanned also means it can circle a target’s airspace for hours or days without having to account for pilot fatigue.
China reportedly had a flying prototype of the drone as early as 2013.
Major General Cai Zhijun, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of defence, said last week’s high-profile parade included 15,000 troops, more than 160 aircraft, and 580 pieces of military equipment.
The new equipment could be a key indicator of China’s progress in military technology, an area in which they have long lagged behind, depending on outdated Soviet designs.
China is now the world’s second biggest military spender, though is still far behind the US.
In 2018, the US spent $649 billion (£526 billion) on its military, compared to China’s $250 billion (£203 billion).
But China has fewer forces deployed over seas, leaving more of its budget for spending on research and development.
Sam Roggeveem, international security program director at the Lowy Institute, told news.com.au that China is also looking to strengthen its naval presence.
“They want a navy they can use to assert their dominance when the Americans cease to be a major player in the Asia Pacific,” he said.
“America’s might is really built around its navy, China wants to negate its influence in the region and use their own navy to gain advantage.”
Tensions between the US and China have been high in recent years because of China’s claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
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