China unveils 'loyal wingman' armed drone concept

China on Wednesday revealed a drone concept similar in mission - and appearance - to the U.S.-made Kratos (KTOS.O) XQ-58A Valkyrie as countries race to invest in "loyal wingman" drones to help protect pricier crewed fighter jets, Reuters reports. 

The long-range FH-97 drone concept unveiled on Wednesday can carry different types of weapons, and has swarm and electronic warfare capabilities, said Wu Wei, a representative of China Aerospace Science Technology Corp's (CASTC) Feihong product line.

He did not provide specifics in his presentation at Airshow China in Zhuhai.

The United States, Britain, Australia, India and Russia are among the countries developing "loyal wingman" drones, which are cheaper and more expendable than crewed fighters.

CASTC did not provide technical details of the FH-97 concept, nor say whether it was planned for export, though many foreign observers watched the presentation.

The FH-97's appearance is nearly identical to the Kratos XQ-58A, which made its first flight in 2019. The XQ-58A has a maximum speed of Mach 0.85 and a range of about 2,200 nautical miles.

Zhang Zhongyang, vice president of CASTC said the plan was to turn Feihong into an "international top-notch brand… and become a major player at the centre stage of the world arena."

China has exported military drones to countries including the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Serbia.


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