China Tests World's Largest Transport Drone With Airdrop Exercise

Last October, we were one of the first to report that China tested the world's largest transport drone. Now it appears the drone has undergone several more tests, this time with a heavy cargo delivery exercise.

The aerial delivery exercise was conducted by the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation in Zhangye, Northwest China's Gansu Province, at an unspecified time, reported The Global Times.

The exercise featured a Feihong-98, the world's largest transport drone, with a maximum payload of 1.5 tons. It's a modified single-engine biplane, called the Shifei Y5B, a China-developed transport plane from the 1950s.

The Feihong-98 carried military supplies and successfully airdropped it at an unspecified area on a plateau with difficult terrain.

"The exercise met our expected objective. It is very significant for our unmanned logistics chain in future warfare," said Bi Guangyuan, executive director of the exercise, CCTV reported.

This was China's first airdrop of cargo from a transport drone weighing more than 1,100 pounds and traveling at a distance of about 310 miles, Li Ruixing, the president of the PLA National Defense University's joint logistics academy, told CCTV.

"We … explored a new model of military cargo delivery in joint combat as well as in strategic and tactical logistics support," Ruixing said.

A military expert who asked to remain anonymous told The Global Times on Sunday that the plane is expected to haul even heavier cargo loads in upcoming tests.

With a takeoff and landing distance of roughly 500 ft., the transport drone could be the most affordable means of resupplying Chinese militarized islands in the South China Sea.

In the last twenty years, China has emerged as one of Washington's top competitors in the global drone market. China is offering affordable drone technology, that has been rapidly gaining global market share.

China manufactures several types of drones. The Caihong 5 (CH-5) Rainbow, its newest multi-role capable drone, has seen increased activity in the Middle East -- especially the Yemeni Civil War. The CH-5 competes with the American Reaper and Israeli Heron TP.

China is a major exporter of multi-role strike capable drones. Between 2008 and 2017, China exported a total of 88 drones to eleven different countries.

China, the rising power in the Eastern Hemisphere, has challenged the US, the status quo power in the South China Sea. China is rapidly developing and deploying armed and transport drones as a sign that military conflict between both powers is inevitable.