BEIJING: The newly unveiled KVD002 armed reconnaissance drone of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army has likely participated in patrols and exercises around the island of Taiwan since 2022, identified then as the CH-4, analysts said on Thursday.
Shortly after the KVD002 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial system was displayed for the first time in public at the 6th China Helicopter Exposition held in North China’s Tianjin Municipality last week, media reports emerged to say that the KVD002 is a variant of the highly renowned CH-4 specially customized for the PLA Army.
The aerodynamic design of the KVD002 on display at the expo boasted a high resemblance to that of the CH-4, and it carried the AR-1 air-to-ground missile that was also developed by the Aerospace CH UAV company, the developer of the CH drone series, observers pointed out.
Neither the PLA Army nor the Aerospace CH UAV company have officially remarked on the relationship between the KVD002 and the CH-4 as of press time.
Since September 2022 and without the knowledge about the KVD002, the defense authority on the island of Taiwan has occasionally reported the presence of CH-4 armed reconnaissance drones during the PLA’s daily patrols and exercises around the island, which have also sometimes featured Z-10 attack helicopters and KVD001 reconnaissance drones of the PLA Army.
The CH-4 has displayed its capabilities overseas, and it was natural that it won interest from domestic users like the PLA Army, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
The KVD002 can conduct reconnaissance missions around the island of Taiwan and conduct precision strikes when necessary, Fu said.
Before the presumed commissioning of the CH-4 into the PLA Army as the KVD002, more than 200 units of the CH-4 were sold on the international market as of November 2022, Aerospace CH UAV company told the Global Times at the time.
Another top Chinese drone series, the Wing Loong, has been commissioned into the PLA Air Force and given the designation of GJ.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that the PLA Army, Air Force and Navy have all commissioned drones and deployed them in exercises around the island of Taiwan.
Analysts noted that China’s drone industry is offering a wide variety of products, including large and small drones as well as sophisticated and cost efficient ones, from various suppliers including the aviation sector, the aerospace sector, the weapons sector and the private sector.
Different military services and branches can choose from the products that best suit their needs, Song said.
According to a description provided at the helicopter expo, as the first armed reconnaissance drone of the PLA Army, the KVD002 can carry out precision strikes on hostile air defense systems, armored targets and fortifications based on air-ground integration plans, cooperate with helicopters by providing reconnaissance data, escort and target guidance, as well as conduct reconnaissance and strikes independently.
The KVD002 has outstanding comprehensive performance, is easy to operate and maintain, can be expanded for additional missions and is capable of conducting short takeoff and landing in plateau regions, the description read.
This means that the KVD002 is intended to be used in different terrain across the country, not only in the Taiwan Straits, observers said.