China is rolling out stealth drones and pilot-less aircraft fitted with deadly weapons, such as AK-47 rifles, onto world markets.
Combat drones were among the jet fighters, missiles and other military hardware shown this week at Airshow China, the country's largest aerospace industry exhibition.
China's automated warplanes are already flying in the Middle East, and the newly unveiled unmanned jets signal Beijing's determination to catch up and eventually rival the United States in the global military drone market.
Visitors to the Airshow China take pictures of CH-7, China's newest stealth combat drone
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are in the process of acquiring the Chinese-made Blowfish A2 (pictured). A director from Ziyan, the manufacturer of the helicopter drone, said they could add 'whatever' weapons required by clients to the unmanned aircraft
One of the most eye-catching drones displayed at the exhibition in Zhuhai was CH-7, or Rainbow-7, China's newest stealth combat drone.
The delta-winged stealth drone received much attention, highlighting the superpower's growing production of sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles and its effort in seeking to compete with the massive military fleet in America.
CH-7 – a charcoal-gray UAV unveiled at the air show – is the length of a tennis court with a 22-meter (72-feet) wingspan. It can fly at more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) per hour and at an altitude of 13,000 meters (42,650 feet).
Shi Wen, Chief Engineer of the Caihong (Rainbow) series drones at state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) said, "We are convinced that this product will quickly contact us.
CH-7 (pictured) is set to test flight next year and will enter mass production in 2022
Observers argue that CH-7 appears to be a clone of the X-47B (pictured) from the U.S.. Navy
CH-7 would be able to reach a maximum altitude of 13,000 meters (42,650 feet) and reach a top speed of 0.75 Mach (571 miles per hour), according to reports from Chinese media
CH-7's maiden flight is slated for late next year.
CASC has clients in around 10 countries, Shi told AFP, while declining to name them.
'Some things remain sensitive,' he said.
Beijing claims that the drone was domestically developed with its own know-how, but observers argue that it appears to be a clone of American military drones, especially the X-47B from the U.S. Navy.
Measuring 10 meters (33 feet) long and boasting a top speed of 0.75 Mach (571 miles per hour), the CH-7 has a size and speed to Northrop Grumman's X-47B.
length: 11.6 meters (38.2 feet)
wingspan: 18.9 meters (62.1 feet)
Maximum take-off weight: 19,958 kilograms (44,000 pounds)
Maximum flight altitude: 12,800 meters (42,000 feet)
Top speed: High subsonic
Power plant: Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U
Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman Corporation
CHINA'S CH-7 DRONE
length: 10 meters (33 feet)
wingspan: 22 meters (72 feet)
Maximum take-off weight: 13,000 kilograms (28,660 pounds)
Maximum flight altitude: 13,000 meters (42,650 feet)
Top speed: 0.75 Mach (571 miles per hour)
Power plant: Unknown
Manufacturer: China Aerospace and Technology Corporation
A model of China's CH-7 drone is on display at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai
Some so compare CH-7 to America's RQ-170 (pictured), which was captured by Iran in 2011
China has exported its armed UAVs to Asia, Africa and the Middle East, according to experts.
At the Zhuhai air show, Chinese drone makers are rubbing their hands at the business opportunities.
'Security is a real problem in the Middle East. There's a real need for military drones over there, "said Wu Xiaozhen, overseas project director at Ziyan.
At the company's stand, the Blowfish A2, a 62-centimeter (24-inch) tall helicopter drone with Kevlar armor.
'We can add AK-47 or a machine gun. Different weapons can be installed, whatever the customer wants, they are told AFP.
Abu Dhabi is already a customer while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are in discussions with the company to acquire the drone.
'We are targeting Western markets, too. Our product is of great quality, she said. 'We do not fear competition from the Europeans and the Americans.'
CH-5, also known as Rainbow-5, is on display during the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in 2016. A new propaganda video of the warplane was released recently
The latest film shows the deadly military drone striking and moving targets at live-fire drills
Beijing has fewer qualms than the US when it comes to selling UAVs to other nations.
The Iraqi Army has used CASC's CH-4 drone to conduct at least 260 strikes against the Islamic State group earlier this year.
In Yemen, where a civil war has been sparked what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the United Arab Emirates military has reportedly targeted a Shiite rebel chief with a Chinese-made drone.
Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, said, "The Chinese have produced a great deal of drones, and they are making great progress.
'The export and deployment of them should be done in a real combat environment,' Tsang said.
The Iraqi Army has used China's CH-4 drone (pictured) to conduct 260 strikes
The United States has plenty of lethal drones, but it has had restrictions on exporting it out of concern that the technology could be used against its own troops.
Some of those restrictions were lifted in April for U.S. allies, with President Donald Trump's administration citing competition from Chinese 'knockoffs', but even a solid ally as Jordan has not been able to buy. drones.
The U.S. Also, said James Char, an expert on the Chinese military at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.
Beijing is currently promoting its serial military drones named Caihong, or Rainbow. The series of plans include the newest CH-7 as well as mass-produced CH-5, branded as China's 'deadliest drone bomber'.
China's drones are now flying in the Middle East, China Beijing is more than the United States. Combat drones were shown under the jet fighters, missiles and other military hardware this week at Airshow China (pictured)
The various unmanned aircraft displayed at Airshow China signal Beijing's determination to catch up and eventually rival the United States in the global military drone market