The Sharp Sword UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), China”s stealthy attack drone, just won second place in the National Science and Technology Advancement Prizes. Considering the secrecy surrounding stealth drones to come out of China—there are relatively few photos of the Sharp Sword available, particularly as opposed to, say, the J-20 fighter—the Sharp Sword”s victory is pretty noteworthy. The drone, known as “Lijian” in Mandarin Chinese, is being paraded as a huge win for Chinese aviation technology. And it is.
The Sharp Sword is the first non-NATO stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). Built by Aviation Industry Corporation of China, with much of the work done by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, the Sharp Sword first flew in November 2013. Looking a bit like a mini-B-2 flying wing bomber, the UCAV has two internal bomb bays and a likely payload of about 4,400 pounds. Its engine is a non-afterburning WS-13 turbofan engine, with serpentine inlet to hide the engine from enemy radars (the first Sharp Sword does not use a stealthy nozzle due to its technology demonstrator status). It has a length of about 33 feet, and a wingspan of about 46 feet.