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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 & 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.
CH-6 & Reaper Weapons
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.
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 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