CASC Rainbow (Cai Hong, abbreviated as CH) is the name of a series Chinese Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) developed by China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), also known as the 11th Academy of CASC, or 701st Research Institute.
CH-1 is the first member of the Rainbow (CH) series UAV. The general designer was Mr. Shi Wen (石文), who is also the general designer of CH-2, the successor of CH-1, CASC PW-1, the derivative of CH-1, and CASC PW-2, the derivative of CH-2. CH-1 program first begun in 2000, and the success of CH-1 resulted in the establishment of UAV program which eventually led to other designs that followed. CH-1 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Specification:
- Wingspan (m): 4.4
- Length (m): 3.75
- Height (m): 0.87
- Weight (kg): 40
- Payload (kg): 4.5
- Fuel (kg): 26
- Max speed (km/h): 170
- Cruise speed (km/h): 120 – 150
- Normal radius (km): > 100
- Normal operating altitude (km): 1 – 3
- Ceiling (km): 4.6
- Max range (km): 740 @ 1 km altitude and 124 km/h speed
- Endurance (h): 6
- Rate of climb (m/s): 4.3
- Turn radius (m): 290
- g overload: - 1.5 to 3
- Launch: rocket assisted + catapult mounted on vehicle
- Recovery: parachute
- Max wind scale allowed for operation: 5
CH-2 is second member of Rainbow (CH) series UAV and it is a development of earlier CH-1, with identical twin-boom layout. As with its predecessor CH-1, propulsion of CH-2 is also provided by a two-blade propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted at the rear end of the fuselage, and the UAV is launched via vehicle mounted catapult with rocketed assisted take-off. CH-2 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
CH-3 is a fixed wing UCAV of the Rainbow series. CH-3 adopts the unusual canard layout, similar to the Jetcruzer 450 and the Rutan VariEze. This means that the CH-3 lacks centrally located vertical tail, but has large winglets and canards. Propulsion is provided by a three-blade propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted on empennage. The main landing wheels of the tricycle landing gear has fairing to reduce drag.
In January, 2015, a CH-3 drone was reported to have crashed in the north of Nigeria. It is believed the drone was involved in Nigeria's struggle against the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram. China supplied the CH-3 to Nigeria government prior to 2014, along with YC-200 guided bombs and AR-1 air-to-ground missile.
- Wingspan (m): 8
- Range (km): 960
- Endurance (h): 12
- Payload (kg): 60 – 80
- Ceiling (km): 4
CH-3A is the development of CH-3 and share the identical layout. Improvement of CH-3A over CH-3 includes that the maximum payload is increased to more than 100 kg, and satellite data link is also incorporated. CH3A is a multipurpose UAV which can also carry AR 1 laser guided rocket for attacking role. It is also widely rumoured that Myanmar Air Force operates them, and some images have been found, but there's no confirmation.Specification:
- Payload (kg): 180 maximum
- Endurance (h): 6 with maximum payload
- Ceiling (Km): 4
- Max Range (km): 960
CH-4 is the largest fixed wing UCAV of the Rainbow series (as of end of 2013). Externally, CH-4 looks almost identical to General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, and the only distinct visual difference between two UAVs is that the ventral fin below the V-tail on MQ-9 is absent on CH-4. There are two versions, the CH-4A and CH-4B. The CH-4A is a reconnaissance drone (capable of a 3500–5000 km range and a 30- to 40-hour endurance) while the CH-4B is a mixed attack and reconnaissance system with provisions for 6 weapons and a payload of up to 250 to 345 kg.
CH-4 is capable of firing air-to-ground missile from altitude of 5,000 meters, therefore the aircraft can stay outside of effective range of most anti-aircraft guns. It also allow CH-4 to be able to fire from a position that provides wider viewing area.
The CH-5 is the latest UCAV of the Rainbow series, with a wingspan of 21 metres, a payload of 1,000 kg, a maximum takeoff weight of over 3 tonnes, a service ceiling of 9 km, an endurance of up to 60 hours and a range of 10,000 km. Thanks to shared data link it can cooperate with CH-3 and CH-4 drones. It conducted its maiden flight in August 2015 and its first airshow flight (in northern Hebei province) in July 2017. The drone can carry 16 missiles at a single time. There were also plans to extend its range up to 20,000 km. Chinese officials claimed the CH-5 Rainbow was similar in performance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and "may come in at less than half the price." Compared to the Garrett TPE331 turboprop engine mounted on the Reaper, CH-5 is equipped with an unidentified turbo-charged piston engine, with less than half the horsepower. This choice limits the maximum altitude of the CH-5 to 9 km compared to the 12–15 km of the Reaper, but it also extends CH-5's endurance to 60 hours compared to 14 hour of the Reaper's. Future blocks of CH-5 will be able to stay in the air for up to 120 hours.
CH-91 is a fixed-wing UAV in twin-boom layout with inverted v-tail and a pair of skids as landing gear. Propulsion is provided by a two-blade propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted at the rear end of the fuselage. CH-91 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. It's also called as BZK-008.
CH-92 is a fixed-wing UAV in conventional layout with V-tail and tricycle landing gear. Propulsion is provided by a propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted at the empennage. CH-92 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
CH-802 is a fixed wing micro air vehicle (MAV) in conventional layout with elevated high-wing configuration and V-tail. CH-802 has a cylindrical fuselage and propulsion is provided by a two-blade propeller driven by a tractor brushless electric motor atop of the fuselage. CH-803 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. CH-802 program begun in 2007 and was completed in 2008. Specification:
- Wingspan (m): 3
- Length (m): 1.8
- Weight (kg): 6.5
- Payload (kg): 1
- Radius (km): 30
- Normal operating altitude (km): 0.3 – 1
- Normal radius (km): 30 – 50
- Cruise speed (km/h): 60
- Endurance (h): 2.5
- Ceiling (km): 4
- Launch: by hand
CH-803 is a fixed-wing UAV with a cylindrical fuselage and canards, but without tailplane. Propulsion is provided by two-blade propeller driven by a tractor engine mounted in the nose. Another unique feature of CH-803 is that it adopts forward-swept wing. CH-803 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. CH-803 program begun in 2008 and was completed in 2011. Specification:
- Wingspan (m): 3
- Length (m): 1.8
- Weight (kg): 18
- Payload (kg): 3.5
- Radius (km): 30
- Normal operating altitude (km): 0.5 – 1.5
- Normal radius (km): 50 – 80
- Cruise speed (km/h): 80 – 110
- Endurance (h): 5
- Ceiling (km): 3.5
- Launch: catapult
- Recovery: parachute
CH-901 is a fixed-wing UAV in conventional layout with cylindrical fuselage and high-wing configuration. Propulsion is provided by a two-blade propeller driven by a pusher engine mounted at the end of empennage. CH-901 is designed as an UCAV.
- Royal Saudi Land Force: A license to produce CH series was granted to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
- United Arab Emirates Army: UAE bought CH-4 for airstrike and successfully assassinated a senior Houthi leader in Yemen.
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