At a time when China’s latest armed reconnaissance drone, the stealth-capable GJ-11, is on display at an ongoing expo in Beijing, official media reported that the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) is capable of conducting missions to size air superiority.
Military analysts said that while the report seems counter-intuitive, it might indicate some new combat concepts.
The independently developed GJ-11, currently exhibited at the “Forging Ahead in the New Era” show at the Beijing Exhibition Center, is a type of uncrewed combat aircraft with high stealth, high penetration and precision strike capabilities, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Thursday.
Not only can it fly high and fast, but it can also carry out missions including offensive air superiority seizing and suppressive air defense operations under high threats and in highly contested environments just like the J-20 stealth fighter jet, CCTV said.
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This is the first time an official media has revealed that the GJ-11 is capable of seizing air superiority, observers said.
It was widely believed that armed reconnaissance drones, including the GJ-11 which has a flying wing aerodynamic design and a top-mounted air inlet design, are not best suited for air superiority missions, which mainly means air-to-air combat, because of their subsonic speed and low maneuverability, but the air superiority seizing ability the GJ-11 is capable of might not be the same concept, said some military experts reached by the Global Times on Sunday.
Since stealth aircraft can penetrate deep behind hostile air defense, they can conduct precision strike missions on enemy airfields and bases. In this way, the enemy will have to give up air superiority since they have no aircraft in the air in the first place, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times.
According to another recent report by CCTV, multiple stealth drones like the GJ-11 could accompany a twin-seat version of the J-20 in a joint mission.
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In this concept, drones can serve as external missile carriers and fire air-to-air missiles for the J-20 remotely. This is another way the GJ-11 might conduct air superiority missions, experts said.
According to an official model of the GJ-11 displayed at the Airshow China 2021 held in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, the drone has two weapons bays symmetrically positioned between the drone’s three landing gears. Each bay has four ammunitions that look like guided precision air-to-ground glide bombs.
It is unknown if the GJ-11’s weapons bays could host air-to-air missiles, but analysts said they have the potential to carry multiple types of munitions.
The GJ-11 made its first public appearance at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019, in Beijing.
Source: Global Times