Hong Kong: China's military is looking to buy suicide drones - loitering munitions or UAVs that can be hard to detect and shoot down, especially the smaller models. Michael Peck, writing in The National Interest said that for the US military and other potential Chinese adversaries, this is one more advanced weapon that they may encounter in battle. China wants two types of suicide drones, according to an announcement posted on a Chinese military procurement website.
Technical details classified
The desired technical specifications of the drones, or the number to be purchased, is classified. Meanwhile, Chinese drone manufacturers do have products that might satisfy the demands of the People's Liberation Army.
Speed as high as 150 kilometeres per hour
In 2018, China Aerospace unveiled the CH-901, which Chinese media described as being 4 feet long and weighing 20 pounds, with a speed of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour, a range of 15 kilometers (9 miles) and an endurance of two hours. The larger WS-43 is a 500-pound weapon with a range of 60 kilometers (37 miles) and an endurance of 30 minutes.
Suicide drones - lethal entrant into modern warfare
Either expendable attack drones or flying artillery shells, depending on how you look at them, suicide drones are lethal newcomers to the 21st Century battlefield, said Peck. Called "loitering munitions" by military customers who are understandably reluctant to refer to them as suicidal, these weapons seek to bridge the gap between artillery shells - which can't stay up in the air - and strike drones like America's Reaper and Predator, which are big and expensive unmanned aircraft.
Target identified, death-dive follows
Loitering munitions feature a propeller, wings, a warhead and a camera. They orbit an area, scanning it with their cameras to identify targets and transmitting the images back to the operator. When the operator sees a worthwhile target, he can command the drone to perform a death-dive on the target. The potential uses of these weapons are numerous. Aerovision's Switchblade, which the US Marine Corps ordered in 2018, is a handheld 6-pound weapon that fits inside a soldier's backpack, reported The National Interest. Switchblade is designed for situations such as troops encountering a mortar on the reverse slope of a hill that can't be hit by direct-fire weapons. Instead of waiting for artillery or airstrikes, a rifleman can pluck a Switchblade from his backpack and destroy the target. Or, if hitting a sniper in a building risks collateral damage to civilians, a Switchblade can be flown through the window. Its warhead is no more powerful than that of a grenade, but that's still powerful enough to take out a mortar or sniper, reported The National Interest. As per Peck, those Chinese loitering munitions may be popping up outside of China. Beijing may have become the world's No. 2 arms exporter, whose aircraft, tanks and rifles can be found across the globe. This means that American soldiers could face Chinese-made suicide drones in hotspots such as Africa and the Middle East, added Peck.