CASC Rainbow

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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,[1] 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.[2] Specification:[3]

  • 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.[4][5] CH-2 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.[2]


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.[6]

In January, 2015, a CH-3 drone was reported to have crashed in the north of Nigeria.[7] It is believed the drone was involved in Nigeria's struggle against the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram.[8] China supplied the CH-3 to Nigeria government prior to 2014, along with YC-200 guided bombs and AR-1 air-to-ground missile.[9]


  • 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:[10]

  • 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).[2] 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.[11][12][13] 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.[14]

Vasiliy Kashin, a China specialist at Moscow's Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said that The CH-4B UCAV has been exported to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.[15][16]


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[17] 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[18][19] and its first airshow flight (in northern Hebei province) in July 2017.[17] The drone can carry 16 missiles at a single time. There were also plans to extend its range up to 20,000 km.[20] 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.[21]


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.[22][23] CH-91 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.[2] 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.[2][24]


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.[25][26] CH-803 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.[2] CH-802 program begun in 2007 and was completed in 2008. Specification:[27][28]

  • 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.[27] CH-803 is mainly intended for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.[2] CH-803 program begun in 2008 and was completed in 2011. Specification:[28]

  • 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.[29] CH-901 is designed as an UCAV.[2][30]


  • Tatmadaw: Acquired CH-4 for precision airstrike mission.[31]
 Saudi Arabia

See also[edit]

List of unmanned aerial vehicles of the People's Republic of China


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rainbow (CH) UAVs". Retrieved 2012-11-12. 
  3. ^ CH-1
  4. ^ CH-2
  5. ^ CH-2 UAV
  6. ^ a b "CH 3 & 3A". Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  7. ^ a b "It Seems a Chinese Missile Drone Just Crashed in Nigeria". Medium. 28 January 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Did An Armed Chinese-Made Drone Just Crash in Nigeria?". Popular Science. 28 January 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "CH-3 fighting in Nigeria". Retrieved 2014-12-29. 
  10. ^ CH-3A
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Red dawn: Communist China stepping up drone deployment,"The Washington Times, March 26, 2013
  13. ^ "China's CH-4B Drone Looks Awfully Familiar to a U.S. Drone". Popular Mechanics. July 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ "CH-4 firing from high altitude". Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  15. ^ a b "China Again Tries To Pierce Gulf Defense Market". 6 November 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "中国彩虹4B无人机在中东显威 专家却这样说". (in Chinese). 
  17. ^ a b Fullerton, Jamie (2017-07-18). "China's new CH-5 Rainbow drone leaves US Reaper 'in the dust'". The Times. Retrieved 2017-07-18. (Subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ "国产最大察打一体无人机"彩虹"5号首飞成功" [China's biggest success with unmanned aerial vehicle "Rainbow" on the 5th flight]. Phoenix News (in Chinese). China. 2015-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  19. ^ 杨洁. "Unmanned combat drone to be exported - China -". Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  20. ^ Lei, Zhao (2016-11-01). "Unmanned combat drone to be exported". China Daily. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  21. ^ Mathew, Arun (2017-07-16). "Production variant of China's CH-5 drone completes trial flight". Retrieved 2017-09-30. 
  22. ^ CH-97
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ CH-802 UAV
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b "CH-802 & 803". Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  28. ^ a b "CH-802 and 803". Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  29. ^ CH-901
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b c d e f g "China Has Already Won the Drone Wars". Foreign Policy. 10 May 2018. 
  32. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ "Rainbow UAV gives Iraq new spectrum abilities". Flight International: 21. 20 October 2015. 
  34. ^ "CH-4 drone in Iraq". 
  35. ^ Binnie, Jeremy. "Saudi Arabia to build Chinese UAVs" (23 March 2017). IHS Jane's 360. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  36. ^ Knox, Patrick. "China agrees to build a giant 'hunter-killer' drone plant in Saudi Arabia" (28 March 2017). The Sun. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  37. ^ Hawser, Anita. "China will build armed UAVs in Saudi Arabia, which is looking beyond the west for weapons" (3 April 2017). Defence Procurement International. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  38. ^
  39. ^