State-owned Chinese company CETC claims to have successfully tested a a ‘barrage swarm' of kamikaze drones, which it says is the first practical Chinese drone swarm.
CETC, a state-owned Chinese company, has released a new video claiming to show the successful test of a ‘barrage swarm’ that launches 48 attack drones to saturate a target. It is described as the first practical Chinese swarming drone system.
The details of the tests carried out in September were released on Tuesday by the Institute of Electronic Science and Technology of China. The drones are launched from a vehicle based on the Dongfeng Menshi, which evolved from a license-built version of the U.S. Hummer H1. The drones are launched with compressed air, then unfold their wings and fly to the target area with an electric-powered propeller. The kamikaze drones carry high-explosive warheads, potentially powerful enough to destroy tanks and other armor. The concept is similar to AeroVironment’s recently-unveiled SwitchBlade 600, but deployed in much larger numbers, with multiple drones aiming to swamp defenses.
China has long had tactical loitering munitions like the 20-pound CH-901, which cruises over the target area beaming back video for the operator to locate a target, then diving in to destroy it on command. In 2018 China displayed a launch vehicle with eight CH-901s, which would be launched one at a time. The difference here is the swarming technology, which means the operator only needs to designate the target. Swarming software ensures that the drones will fly together without colliding, and will co-operate to ensure that all targets are attacked rather than every drone going for the highest-value vehicle.
The video shows the operator tapping on a target from the drone’s-eye video displayed on a tablet computer, which the drones then home in on. And yes, it does look a lot like the drone attack sequence in recent Hollywood blockbuster Angel Has Fallen, which itself was probably inspired by the U.S. Navy’s LOCUST swarming attack drone project in development since 2015.