A New Chinese Loitering Weapon Appears in Thailand

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FH-901 canister launched loitering weapon shown by Chinese defense company ALIT at D&S2022. Photo: Defense-Update
The FH901 was shown for the first time at Zhuhai 2021 airshow, alongside the Feihong 97 stealth drone.

Today, Chinese aerospace company ALIT unveiled a new type of loitering weapon at the Thailand Defense and Security 2022 exhibition. The weapon designated FH901 was unveiled last year at the Zhuhai Airshow in China. The canister-launched version on show in Bangkok has a larger and heavier warhead. The ALIT display at D&S2022 outlines two versions of the weapon. The FH901 has a takeoff weight of 9 kg and carries a warhead of 3.5 kg.

In 2021 the FH-901 were depicted as swarming drone weapons.

FH901A is a lighter version of the same weapon that weighs only 3.5 kg of which only 0.5 kg is the warhead. The weapon is equipped with an EO/IR reconnaissance payload that acts as the targeting system. The weapon has a datalink operating over a line-of-sight distance of 15 km. Battery power is sufficient to sustain mission endurance for over 60 minutes, loitering at an altitude of 100 – 150 meters above ground at a cruising speed of 100 km/h. The weapon can accelerate and dash to its patrol area at up to 180 km/h after launch; when striking a target, the FH901 dives down, reaching a terminal velocity of 288 km/h. The weapon uses electro-optical guidance to score hits less than 2 meters (CEP).

The canister launched FH901/901A shown at D&S2022 addresses the needs of counterinsurgency and special operations. But China has other plans for this weapon, with large numbers of such weapons launched from ground or aerial platforms and used in swarm attacks. In 2020, CETIC released a video showing a pneumatic swarm launcher packing 48 drones and the Feihong 97 jet-powered stealth UAV. Overall, the elements of the Chinese swarm attack weapon systems are strikingly familiar – FH901 bears many similarities to the Aerovironment Switchblade 600, the Chinese Feihong 97 resembles the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie, and the swarm launcher looks like a sibling to Raytheon’s launcher designed and tested to deploy a swarm of dozens of Coyote drones.

At D&S2022 the FH901 is displayed as a canister-launched loitering weapon designed for counter insurgency and special operations. Photo: defense-Update