China's 1st Combat Drone Completes Maiden Test Flight
China's "Sharp Sword" combat drone on the runway at a test facility in Southewest China.
Credit: YouTube screengrab from JDUS2020

China conducted a successful test flight of its first combat drone last week, according to state-run media reports, becoming only the fourth nation to fly unmanned, jet-powered stealth vehicles.

On Nov. 21, the drone, called Lijian or "sharp sword," took off from a test facility in Southwest China and flew around for almost 20 minutes, according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper.

The publication said the test flight represents a significant breakthrough in Chinese aerial prowess, and demonstrates "the nation has again narrowed the air-power disparity between itself and Western nations."

Few other details are known about the Sharp Sword drone, which could be used for missile strikes or reconnaissance. Some civilian observers did, however, manage to capture photos and videos of last week's test flight. The delta-wing aircraft appears to be equipped with a Russian jet engine that could be replaced by domestically built alternatives, once Chinese engines enter production, Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told China Daily.

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