The Chinese military has tested an unmanned transport plane that successfully delivered cargo at a designated area, making it a future prospect for airdropping cargo through parachutes in real battle conditions, official media here reported on Monday.
Jointly held by the National Defence University of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the aerial delivery exercise took place recently in Zhangye, Northwest China’s Gansu Province, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
The exercise featured an unmanned single-engine biplane, the designation of which was not revealed, as it carried a cargo of military supplies and successfully airdropped it into a target zone, according to the CCTV report.
This is the first time China has conducted a parachuted aerial delivery of cargo weighing more than 500 kilograms on a flight distance of more than 500 kms with an unmanned transport aircraft, CCTV quoted Li Ruixing, the president of the PLA National Defence University’s joint logistics academy as saying.
“We … explored a new model of military cargo delivery in joint combat as well as in strategic and tactical logistics support,” Li said.
Since transport planes usually do not need to make intense and complicated manoeuvres like fighter jets, even heavier cargo delivery missions could become unmanned if this technology becomes mature, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times.
Airdrops often take place within the range of hostile anti-aircraft fire, so being unmanned lowers risk to life, the expert said.
The exercise also means that the Chinese military now has the first large unmanned equipment in its logistics arsenal, the CCTV report said, noting that the mission was carried out on a plateau with a complicated terrain.
“The exercise met our expected objective. It is very significant for our unmanned logistics chain in future warfare,” said Bi Guangyuan, executive director of the exercise, CCTV reported.
Chinese military analysts predicted that more unmanned transport aircraft could join the army’s logistics arsenal for long-range and heavy delivery in the future, state-run Global Times reported.