China plans to unveil drones, moon rocket at air show

ZHUHAI, China (AP) — A military drone whose manufacturer says it can cruise for 20 hours at 50,000 feet was among Chinese warplanes, missiles and other weapons technology shown in public for the first time Tuesday at the opening of the country’s biggest air show.

The Chinese space program planned to unveil a rocket for crewed space flight capable of carrying a 25-ton payload to lunar orbit at the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, an official newspaper said. The event, which runs through Sunday, was postponed from late 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling Communist Party is pouring billions of dollars into developing fighter jets, stealth technology, drones and other hardware for its military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, as it presses claims to disputed seas and other territory.

Powered by two turbofan engines, the CH-6 drone can carry early warning radar, air-to-ground missiles and other weapons, according to its manufacturer, the China Academy of Aerospace Science, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The newspaper Global Times, published by the ruling party, said the CH-6 is aimed at “high-end arms and dual-use markets” but gave no indication to which governments the company might try to sell it.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology planned to unveil a “next-generation manned carrier rocket and a heavy-lift launch vehicle,” the Global Times said. It said the 2,000-ton, three-stage rocket would “support China’s manned lunar probes.”

Also at the air show, the PLA’s air force planned to display a J-16D electronic warfare airplane for the first time, according to the official China News Service.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. displayed an array of new missiles for the first time.

The China Academy of Aerospace Science also planned to show a mini-attack drone, the CH-817. It said the 800-gram (28-ounce) drone can be used by soldiers or released from a bigger drone.

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