China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has recently tested a new version of the Caihong-4 (CH-4) “Rainbow” drone equipped with satellite control and improved EO payloads supporting HD standards.
During the test last month, the drone launched AR-1 missiles which struck their targets with high precision. Two tests were conducted, one with the current version of the aircraft, fitted with a new SATCOM data link, the second test also employed an upgraded electro-optical payload.
During the first test the CH-4 drone equipped with satellite communications terminal patrolled a test range about 1,000 km west of the ground station controlling it, located at another base near Beijing. The beyond line of sight (BLOS) datalink, established via satellite, supported both reconnaissance, target verification and engagement using AR-1 missiles. Line-Of-Sight datalinks maintain control at a range up to 250 km for high altitude missions.
The second test evaluated a new electro-optical HD sensor payload, improving the sensor output to high-resolution 1080p HD standard enabling target detection in daylight at 20 km range. The FLIR has also been upgraded into continuous zoom lense, compared to past fixed fields setup. The FLIR’s detection range has also been increased to 18km, in day or night.
The new payload use new servo controls providing better stabilization, smoother tracking and improved overall performance, and an integral Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU) supporting targeting accuracy. Software improvements now support auto-focus, auto-zoom and image enhancement.
The CH4 “Rainbow” has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 tons, including 345 kg of payloads. When operating at a ceiling of 4000 m’ its mission endurance is 35 hours. The drone is currently operational in the Middle East, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Algeria also evaluated these drones.