Reflecting its civil origins, the CH-4 is tied to within 250 km (135 nm) of the base station that controls it because it uses a line-of-sight digital data link—even though its unarmed CH-4A version can fly for 30 hr. Dedicated military UAVs with such long endurance use satellite communications, so they range as far as their fuel allows.
Apart from attacking fixed and slow-moving targets, the CH-4 “suits such functions as border patrol, island protection, anti-terror missions and emergency communications,” says the academy, noting that the aircraft is capable of surveillance, monitoring and target localization. “The aircraft can take off and land automatically and execute programmed flight,” it says, adding that in that respect it outperforms other Chinese drones.
The structure is built mainly of carbon-fiber composite. Lift is 20.5 times drag, the academy says. The powerplant is an adapted automobile engine of 75 kw (100 hp) and fuel capacity is 325 kg (716 lb.). So far, all of CASC's publicly revealed UAVs are propeller-driven, but it would not be surprising to see the group unveil a jet soon.
CH-4 development began in 2009. CASC has moved from prototypes to building pre-production units. The aircraft is not yet in service, however.
Like other builders of unmanned surveillance aircraft, CASC adapts its products to carry weapons. The CH-4 uses the weapons-control system and interface from the earlier CASC CH-3 drone, says the designer. “This is not a complex technology for us,” he says, adding that the armed version has made weapons drops. At Zhuhai, the CH-4 was displayed carrying a pair of AR-1 laser-guided missiles and two satellite-guided bombs. Those are its only weapons.
The overtly military appearance of the CH-4 exhibition was evidently intended more to attract attention than to indicate the aircraft's primary use. The exhibition also included an animated video showing a CH-4 detecting, targeting and destroying enemy trucks.
The academy, also known as the 11th Academy, says it is China's leading base for aerodynamic research and testing and has 25 wind tunnels, “some for low-speed, high-speed, transonic and supersonic testing; some that are conventional and some that are special; some for aerodynamics and some for aerodynamic heating.” Its work extends to research and testing for space equipment and strategic missiles.
CASC's full name is China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. The group builds space launchers, satellites and manned capsules, among other predominantly space-oriented products.