HQ-4 Xianglong, or Soar Dragon – is one of China’s largest UAVs today.

For both China and the United States, the development of military UAVs is in a sublime stage. China’s military UAVs over the years have shown significant development after entering the second decade of the twenty-first century. HQ-4 Xianglong, or Soar Dragon – is one of China’s largest UAVs today.

The Soar Dragon, designed by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and constructed by the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation for service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was originally displayed as a model at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2006. Optimised for long-endurance missions at high altitude, the aircraft features an unusual tandem, joined wing platform.

Except for the wing and the configuration of vertical stabilizers, the Soar Dragon is similar in appearance and mission to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk operated by the United States Air Force. The Soaring Dragon employing a conventional swept wing joined with a forward swept wing. The Soar Dragon’s joined wing allows for a more rigid, less flexible wing than other configurations, with benefits said to include an increased lift-to-drag ratio and less complex flight controls than a high-altitude long-endurance UAV, with a conventional wing would require.

On July 24, 2019, a Soar Dragon followed an American Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Antietam as it transited the Taiwan Strait, marking its first operational use. As of 2019, the Soar Dragon is operated from three strategic sites: an airbase in Jilin province, Yishitung near Tibet and Lingshui on Hainan Island.

According to Chinese media, Soar Dragon is better than the US Global Hawk in terms of speed and range. However, its payload, flight time and ceiling are lower. The Soar Dragon’s large range and flight ceiling will give China a huge advantage in strategic reconnaissance by drones in large areas such as in the South China Sea, and border areas with India.

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