The stealth drone wars are on.
The Chinese military conducted a test flight of its Lijian stealth drone, also known as “Sharp Sword,” according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.
The flight took place mid-afternoon Thursday at a testing center in southwest China, the paper said. The plane was designed by the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute and built by Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, two Chinese state owned companies that develop military planes. China now joins the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia in an elite group of countries that are making stealth drones.
The test flight, while a significant step in China’s technological progression in toward a stealth drone, is no surprise to military observers. Earlier this summer, a video of the drone taxiing on a runway surfaced on the Internet:
Sharp Sword’s design bears a close resemblance to the design of the X-47B drone currently being developed by Northrop Grumman. Both are delta-winged aircraft, built for stealth missions, and are being designed to operate from naval platforms. A recent paper published by a Chinese military university took a deep dive into the design of the USS George H.W. Bush’s launch and landing systems, especially the technology used to support drone operations.