The GJ-11 may look revolutionary, but in fact has many similarities with the US Navy’s version, the X-47B

At the recent Zhuhai 2021 air show, China first introduced the internal weapons bays of the GJ-11 Sharp Sword stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle. Experts said that the drone will likely carry multiple types of precision ammunitions, including larger ones that were not on display at the air show.

According to the official model displayed by AVIC, the aircraft’s maker, the GJ-11 has two weapons bays, symmetrically positioned between the drone’s three landing gears. Each bay has four ammunitions which look like guided precision air-to-ground glide bombs. This is the first time details on the GJ-11’s weapons bays and its payload capability have been revealed to the general public since the first public appearance of the drone at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, observers said.

Hongdu GJ-11
Hongdu GJ-11

The GJ-11 may look revolutionary, but in fact has many similarities with the US Navy’s version, the X-47B, which was tested many years ago. It is expected to improve the integrated combat capability and support capacity of the PLA Air Force. In the future, GJ-11 is expected to be deployed on Chinese aircraft carriers, even amphibious assault ships, becoming the new “iron fist” of the Chinese Navy Air Force.

The Sharp Sword is powered by a single turbofan engine and has a flying wing design with a wingspan of 14 m, featuring an internal weapons bay and a stealthy propelling nozzle. The precise mission to which the Sharp Sword has been assigned is not yet known, but possible missions include aerial reconnaissance and eventually combat missions. Accordingly, its empty weight is 6.35 tons, maximum take-off weight is 20.21 tons. Cruise speed is said to be 1,000 km/h, range is 4,000 km, and service ceiling is 12,500m.

With the flying wing design similar to the US’ B-2 strategic bomber, the drone has strong stealth capabilities, enabling it to sneak deep into enemy territory and launch strikes with weapons hidden in its weapons bays over key hostile targets, military analysts said when it was first revealed. In recent years, countries around the world have competed strongly in developing stealth UAVs, led by the US with the X47B, followed by the French “Neuron” UAV, and most recently the Russian S-70 Hunter.


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