Related Video Above: Waging War on Enemy Drones

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

China appears to have developed a modern rendition or “look-alike rip-off” of the U.S Air Force Reaper and Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drones.

It has become all too familiar, instances wherein the People’s Liberation Army unveils a drone, fighter jet, bomber or even infantry carrier which looks extremely similar in external equivalent to a U.S. platform which emerged years earlier. 

Chinese CH-6 Reaper: A Reaper or Global Hawk Drone Rip-Off?

Certainly Chinese efforts to rip-off U.S. designs through cyber espionage have long been discussed as a concern by U.S. military leaders, and the newly created CH-6 Chinese large, high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance drone appears to be no exception.

The front of the CH-6 looks wider and more rounded than a U.S. Reaper, Global Hawk or Triton, yet its described mission functionality sounds nearly identical to the successful U.S. drones.

Ch-6 Drone

The CH UAV company displays the CH-6 drone for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province in September.

CH-6 & Global Hawk Payload Information

There is an interesting comparison here between the emerging CH-6 and U.S. Air Force Global Hawk in that the Chinese newspaper sites sensor payload information nearly identical to what a Global Hawk operates with. 

The CH-6 reportedly flies with EO/IR cameras, Synthetic Aperture Radar, Early Warning Radar and electronic reconnaissance systems, technologies known to exist on Global Hawks and Reapers

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CH-6 & Reaper Weapons

Unlike the Global Hawk yet similar to the Reaper, the CH-6 is reportedly armed with air-to-ground missiles, bombs, anti-radiation missiles and even loitering munitions. 

CH-6 Drone

CH-6 Drone

However, with its upgraded universal weapons interface, the Reaper’s arsenal may be far superior than that of the new CH-6 In recent years, the Air Force has been systematically expanding the Reaper’s weaponry to include a wide selection of precision-guided missiles, air dropped glide bombs and even the air-to-air AIM-9X.

CH-6, Reaper & Global Hawk Size & Endurance

The size of the CH-6 is nearly identical to the Reaper as well, as both drones are reported to operate with a roughly 20 meter wingspan. 

The Global Hawk, by contrast, has almost twice the wingspan. 

The U.S. Air Force has also massively upgraded the Reaper and lengthened its wingspan in a new variant to almost 80ft to add endurance. The Chinese paper says its CH-6 can stay in the air for as long as 20 hours, however that is much less capability than the U.S. Global Hawk and Reaper. 

U.S. Air Force Global Hawk

An RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft

Both the Global Hawk and extended-range Reaper are able to sustain missions for as long as 40 hours, nearly twice that of the Chinese CH-6. This would suggest that the extra fuel tanks added to the Reaper in recent years have greatly improved its operational functionality and, despite it being a much older platform, the Reaper seems to match or exceed the performance characteristics of the CH-6. As for altitude, both the Reaper and the CH-6 report a maximum altitude of roughly 50,000 feet. 

-- Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox