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CASC CH-3 Rainbow - China, 2012

Detailing the development and operational history of the CASC CH-3 Rainbow Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV).

 Entry last updated on 11/22/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The CASC CH-3 is just one in a series of UAVs found under the Rainbow name produced by Chinese industry.

The CH-3 is armed version of the unarmed CH-1/CH-2 drone series. All of the products come from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and are part of the CASC "Rainbow" line of UAVs that began with the CH-1 and has since evolved into the CH-901 model. The series has found some global takers to date (2015) and provides modern tactical over-battlefield capabilities at a much reduced cost when compared to contemporary Western UAV products.

Externally, the CH-3 carries swept-back wing mainplanes along a streamlined fuselage that sports forward canards for additional stability and control. The mainplanes showcase large vertical fins ("winglets") at their tips and sport a single hardpoint each for the carrying and delivery of guided-missile ordnance. The undercarriage is wheeled, though fixed, under the aircraft's mass. At the rear of the fuselage is the engine installation which drives a three-bladed propeller unit in a "pusher" arrangement. Specifications include a wingspan of 8 meters while performance displays a 12-hour endurance window with a payload maximum of 80 kilograms. Range is 2,400 kilometers.

The Nigerian and Pakistani armies are confirmed operators of the CH-3 series. CH-3 designates early models while the CH-3A is a follow-up product which increases the line's mission payload (up to 180 kilograms maximum) while reducing the endurance window by half to six hours. This model also features a satellite data link as standard.

In October 2015, the Iraqi government released footage of a CASC Rainbow UAV being deployed operationally - proving its existence within the Iraqi military inventory and showcasing a new willingness by the government to expand beyond its purchases of American-made equipment.

CASC CH-3 Rainbow Specifications

Service Year: 2012
Status: Active, In-Service
Type: Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)
National Origin: China
Manufacturer(s): China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) - China
Total Production: 500

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 0
Overall Length: 22.97 feet (7 meters)
Overall Width: 26.25 feet (8.00 meters)
Overall Height: 6.56 feet (2.00 meters)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Conventional engine driving three-bladed propelled in pusher arrangement.

Maximum Range: 1,296 nautical miles (1,491 miles; 2,400 km)

Armament / Mission Payload

Two underwing hardpoints for the carrying of guided-missile ordnance. Mission payload of up 60 to 100 kilograms (model dependent - see variants listing).

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Algeria; Iraq; Nigeria; Pakistan

Model Variants

CH-3 "Rainbow" - Base Series Designation; initial production model.
CH-3A - Increased mission payload; reduced endurance.