The Complex

Photos of the week: China's got a stealth drone

The same day that the U.S. Navy's X-47B stealth drone took off from an aircraft carrier, photos emerged on Chinese Internet forums that seemingly confirm that China is developing a stealthy unmanned jet, dubbed the Li Jian or Sharp Sword.

(Remember, earlier this week we showed you grainy photos of what appeared to be China's effort to join the United States, France, Britain, and Russia as members of the stealth drone club.)

These jets are meant to replace the current crop of slow, low-flying, propeller-driven UAVs that military planners assume will be highly vulnerable in a modern conflict where one nation doesn't have absolute control over airspace.

For example, the U.S. Navy envisions these planes doing everything from aerial refueling missions to penetrating advanced air defenses to perform strike and surveillance sorties.

Until now, we had only seen Chinese versions of U.S. drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and what appears to be an attempt to field a high altitude, jet-powered spy plane similar to the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The only stealth drone designs we saw coming out of China were subscale models that basically amounted to remote-control airplanes. It appears that we can now add stealth drones to the military technology that China is developing to catch up with the West.

Hat tip to Alert 5.

Chinese Internet

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