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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 4/6/2018; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  CASC CH-4 Rainbow  
Picture of CASC CH-4 Rainbow Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)

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
National Flag Graphic
Year: 2014
Status: Active, In-Service
Type: Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)
Manufacturer(s): China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) - China
Production: 500
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 0
Length: 36.09 ft (11 m)
Width: 65.62 ft (20.00 m)
Height: 12.47 ft (3.80 m)
Empty Weight: 3,527 lb (1,600 kg)
MTOW: 9,921 lb (4,500 kg)

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

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 217 mph (350 kph; 189 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,709 mi (2,750 km; 1,485 nm)
Service Ceiling: 47,375 ft (14,440 m; 8.97 mi)

Four to six underwing hardpoints for the carrying of anti-tank / air-to-surface guided-missiles and precision-guided / conventional drop bombs / ordnance. Mission payload of up 770lb.

Operators List
China; Egypt; Iraq; Saudi Arabia

Series Model Variants
• CH-4 "Rainbow" - Base Series Designation

Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-tank guided missile
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft guided bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank