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WZ-2000 became China's first unmanned combat air vehicle

Discussion in 'China & Asia Pacific' started by layman, Jan 12, 2014.

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  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    A model of the WZ-2000. (Internet photo)

    A former executive of China National Guizhou Aviation Industry Group has revealed how the WZ-2000 became China's first industrially manufactured multi-purpose attack unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) a decade ago.

    In an interview with the Chinese-language Guizhou Daily, Yang Shaowen, now a member of China's national unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) expert team, described how the WZ-2000 was developed virtually from scratch in Guizhou until its maiden test flight on Dec. 26, 2003.

    Explaining that the development of the WZ-2000 had to be kept under wraps for the last 10 years, Yang said his inspiration for building a domestic UAV came out of the Kosovo War. After the United States and NATO employed UAVs at the outbreak of the war in March 1999, Guizhou Aviation chairman Zhou Wancheng, and Yang, who was the company's aircraft design chief at the time, became convinced that unmanned vehicles are the future of modern warfare.

    Several months later, Yang looked into the local UAV market and was told that Guizhou was not equipped to research or develop the technology and in any case did not have the requisite market or customer channels. Yang added that Guizhou Aviation was the ninth company in China to tackle UAVs, with none of those that came before it ever successfully carrying out a test flight.

    This did not deter Yang, Guizhou Aviation and its parent company, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, forming alliances with other organizations spearheading UAV research and development in China, including top universities, aviation companies and military research organizations.

    A mock up of the WZ-2000 was publicly displayed at the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow, with a more accurate model on display at the 2002 event.

    The maiden test flight was scheduled for Mao Zedong's birthday on Dec. 26, in 2003. The planned 27-minute test flight lasted 74 minutes after the vehicle had difficulty reading its actual height from the ground, though by the end the UCAV managed to complete several flight maneuvers before a successful landing.

    The flight was witnessed by Zhang Xiang, then-deputy commander of the Second Artillery Corps of the People's Liberation Army, as well as other military personnel. Zhang said although the test flight was imperfect, this was expected of new technology, adding that he was impressed with how the testers remained calm when the flight ran into difficulties.

    The test flight instilled a lot of confidence in Guizhou Aviation, which surprised many by being the first in the country to do it. After finally earning military approval, Guizhou Aviation, which by then had a dedicated research team of more than 100 people, received its first UAC order in 2005, helping boost funding from a meager 1 million yuan (US$1.65 million) by an additional 10 million (US$16.5 million).

    By 2008, the WZ-2000 officially became China's first UAV in industrial production.

    The second generation WZ-2000 has reportedly undergone significant improvements. On Nov. 13, 2009 in Lanzhou, the capital of northwest China's Gansu province, the WZ-2000 fired its first ammunition, which was reportedly just 1.2 meters off the target from a distance of several thousand meters.

    "In the UAV sector, the most technologically advanced are the US, the UK and China. As for seeing China's most advanced UAV, you'll have to come to Guizhou," Yang said.

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  2. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    China Tells Story of Its WZ-2000 UCAV

    Guizhou Aviation Industry Reveals Story of UCAV
    (Source: China.org.cn; published January 14, 2014)

    A WZ-2000 (also known as WuZhen-2000) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) took off at Guizhou Aviation Industry Group (GAIC) on Dec. 26, 2003, marking the success of China's first independently developed UCAV. But why did it come out of Guizhou, a province with such backward technology?

    Yang Shaowen, who headed the group's research institute at the time, said, "The details used to be classified information, but after all these years, its story can now be told."

    China felt the need for a UCAV in the wake of the Kosovo War, which broke out in March 1999. During the war, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) played a large role in the assaults launched by the United States and NATO.

    Yang, who was at that time chairman of GAIC, agreed that in future warfare, UAVs would play a larger role. "In the future, countries at war will compete on information technology. The side that lacks information will be doomed to fail," he said.

    Several months later, Yang had colleagues explore the market potential for a UCAV in Beijing. They returned with a two-sentence conclusion: "The UCAV is a new piece of equipment and its prospects is good. GAIC is not ready for such research and development."

    The comment was true. GAIC's focus had been training, and it did not have the staff, know-how, facilities nor the market or customers.

    The UCAV sector in China at that time was largely dominated by three institutions – the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA, also known as Beihang), the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA), and Northwestern Polytechnical University. No industrial firms had any share in it.

    GAIC was encouraged to collaborate with BUAA to ask the Aviation Industry Corporation of China for support, and a joint venture was eventually cemented on Dec. 25 that year.

    Before long, the company got its first order from the military, which gave the UCAV company confidence and solved its pressing financial burdens. However, as Yang recounted, the military insisted it would only pay the money if the UCAV meets all its demands.

    Years of toil were eventually rewarded after the test flight of GAIC's first prototype UCAV, scheduled for Dec. 26, 2008. "We specially picked Mao Zedong's birthday to launch our product," Yang said.

    On the day, vehicles were packed in the roads outside the airport, along with around a thousand people, who gathered to witness the scene. Among the crowd was Wang Fuxin, an 84-year-old retired man from Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, who came to Guizhou Province in the 1960s to support regional development. "At GAIC we now have our own UCAV. I am so proud of it," he said.

    The crowd applauded as the UCAV took off, but they did not know that soon after the vehicle was airborne, its altimeter malfunctioned.

    The reading on the altimeter remained at 70 centimeters. According to Yang, the loss of altitude data meant that the aircraft was unable to land, but it had a narrow escape. The GAIC's remote-control pilot tried various maneuvers so that the ground crew could manually detect its altitude.

    As the plane touched ground, the whole research team were moved to tears. The scheduled 27-minute flight ended up lasting 74 minutes.

    Later, the team discovered the problem was due to poor electromagnetic shielding. The altimeter receiver picked up signals from the fuselage, so it was unable to detect the true altitude.

    The accidents actually served a stress test for GAIC's response to an emergency. The staff remained unruffled while ensuring the plane's safe landing.

    Zhang Xiang, former Deputy Commander of the PLA's Second Artillery Force, who watched the test flight, praised the GAIC team. He said, "High-tech equipment cannot be flawless, but your composed attitude in a crisis has put you among the first class."

    Apart from displaying GAIC's professionalism, the accident also forced the staff to conduct a manual aerial maneuver, which was due in six months.

    In the same year, WZ-2000 formally entered military service, and became China's first industrially produced UCAV. One year later, GAIC unveiled its second generation UCAV, capable of "surgical strikes." Insiders claim that it can rival the US Predator.

    Yang said, "The United States, Britain and China lead the world in UCAV technologies. Guizhou represents the highest level in China."
     
  3. Skull and Bones

    Skull and Bones Doctor Death Staff Member MODERATOR

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    we are still stuck with an archaic UAV, and not even sure when it's going to take it's final shape.
     
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