Photos of the week: China’s got a stealth drone

The same day that the U.S. Navy’s X-47B stealth drone took off from an aircraft carrier, photos emerged on Chinese Internet forums that seemingly confirm that China is developing a stealthy unmanned jet, dubbed the Li Jian or Sharp Sword. (Remember, earlier this week we showed you grainy photos of what appeared to be China’s ...

Chinese Internet
Chinese Internet
Chinese Internet

The same day that the U.S. Navy's X-47B stealth drone took off from an aircraft carrier, photos emerged on Chinese Internet forums that seemingly confirm that China is developing a stealthy unmanned jet, dubbed the Li Jian or Sharp Sword.

(Remember, earlier this week we showed you grainy photos of what appeared to be China's effort to join the United States, France, Britain, and Russia as members of the stealth drone club.)

These jets are meant to replace the current crop of slow, low-flying, propeller-driven UAVs that military planners assume will be highly vulnerable in a modern conflict where one nation doesn't have absolute control over airspace.

The same day that the U.S. Navy’s X-47B stealth drone took off from an aircraft carrier, photos emerged on Chinese Internet forums that seemingly confirm that China is developing a stealthy unmanned jet, dubbed the Li Jian or Sharp Sword.

(Remember, earlier this week we showed you grainy photos of what appeared to be China’s effort to join the United States, France, Britain, and Russia as members of the stealth drone club.)

These jets are meant to replace the current crop of slow, low-flying, propeller-driven UAVs that military planners assume will be highly vulnerable in a modern conflict where one nation doesn’t have absolute control over airspace.

For example, the U.S. Navy envisions these planes doing everything from aerial refueling missions to penetrating advanced air defenses to perform strike and surveillance sorties.

Until now, we had only seen Chinese versions of U.S. drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and what appears to be an attempt to field a high altitude, jet-powered spy plane similar to the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The only stealth drone designs we saw coming out of China were subscale models that basically amounted to remote-control airplanes. It appears that we can now add stealth drones to the military technology that China is developing to catch up with the West.

Hat tip to Alert 5.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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