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CASC CH-4 Rainbow - China, 2014

Detailing the development and operational history of the CASC CH-4 Rainbow Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV).

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

  CASC CH-4 Rainbow  
Picture of CASC CH-4 Rainbow

The CASC CH-4 Rainbow UCAV borrows heavily from the American MQ-9 Reaper UCAV drone series.

The CASC CH-4 is a dedicated Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) of Chinese origin. It is said to borrow heavily from the proven existing line of American MQ-9 Reaper UCAVs. Both are intended for the strike mission role through various precision-guided munitions and are designed to loiter over target areas for hours (the CH-4 sports a fourteen hour mission endurance window). Externally, comparisons to the American product are justifiable for the Chinese interpretation of the proven machine bears more than a passing resemblance to the MQ-9 right down to the outward-cranked tail fins (though there is no ventral fin), straight mainplane wings and fixed tricycle undercarriage - Chinese industry has not been shy in the past about copying foreign solutions to solve local problems.

The CH-4 is one of a long line of UAV products in the CASC "Rainbow" series of unmanned systems that include the CH-1, CH-2 and CH-3. Upon introduction, the CH-4 represented the largest of the Rainbow offerings and is currently marketed in two distinct forms: the "CH-4A" to be used primarily for reconnaissance and the "CH-4B" for the armed reconnaissance / general attack role.

As in the Reaper design, the CH-4 UCAV relies on a slender fuselage body containing the optics fit, avionics set, fuel stores and engine installation (the engine drives a similar three-bladed propeller unit at the rear of the fuselage in a "pusher" arrangement). At the "chin" position is a blister housing the sensor kit with both Infra-Red (IR) and daytime (with zoom) capabilities as well as a laser rangefinder. The armament loadout supports both modern Chinese Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) as well as precision-guided drop bombs - up to 770lb of ordnance can be displayed across four to six total underwing hardpoints.

Currently (2017), the only known operators of the CH-4 are Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi military has already put the CH-4 through its combat paces against ISIS forces while the Saudis have deployed some of their fleet against Houthi rebels in that ongoing war. CASC is in talks with the Saudi Kingdom to arrange for local production of several hundred CH-4 drones for the oil-rich nation.

The CH-5 represents a slightly more advanced version of the CH-4, first-flying in August of 2015. This product features improved performance specifications including greater endurance and altitude.

CASC CH-4 Rainbow Specifications

Service Year: 2014
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: 36.09 feet (11 meters)
Overall Width: 65.62 feet (20.00 meters)
Overall Height: 12.47 feet (3.80 meters)

Weight (Empty): 3,527 lb (1,600 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 9,921 lb (4,500 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Conventional engine developing an estimated 900 horsepower and driving three-bladed propelled in pusher arrangement.

Maximum Speed: 189 knots (217 mph; 350 kph)
Maximum Range: 1,485 nautical miles (1,709 miles; 2,750 km)
Service Ceiling: 47,375 feet (14,440 meters; 8.97 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

Four to six underwing hardpoints for the carrying of guided-missile / precision drop-bomb ordnance. Mission payload of up 770lb.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

China; Egypt; Iraq; Saudi Arabia

Model Variants

CH-4 "Rainbow" - Base Series Designation

Images Gallery