The AV500W prototype on display in Zhuhai is shown with a mock-up of a 6 kg precision guide bomb that is also under development by AVIC. The weapon features folding fins to reduce its carriage footprint. Source: IHS/Kelvin Wong

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has revealed its latest armed reconnaissance vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the Airshow China 2016 exhibition in Zhuhai.

Under development by AVIC's China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI), the AV500W is essentially a weaponised variant of the civilian model AV500 VTOL UAV modified to improve its structural rigidity, payload capacity, and overall performance for military applications.

According to official specifications, the AV500W has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 470 kg with a payload capacity of 160 kg. This typically comprises a chin-mounted, stabilised electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret to enable the air vehicle to perform day/night reconnaissance, battle damage assessment (BDA), as well as target detection and tracking. Other electronic payloads such as a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and communications relay devices can be carried internally.

The AV500W is the weaponised variant of the civilian model AV-500 vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle designed specifically for ground support missions. (IHS/Kelvin Wong)

Airshow China 2016: AVIC unveils AV500W armed VTOL UAV development programme

Stub wings on either side of its fuselage can be configured to carry a range of weapons to enable the AW500W to perform armed interventions if required. An AVIC spokesperson told IHS Jane's that the example on display is carrying two 6 kg-class precision guided bomb mock-ups. The yet-unnamed weapon is designed to engage static or slow moving targets up to 5 km away via semi-active laser guidance. This is also currently under development alongside a larger, more capable 10 kg variant.

While the company declined to provide details on the engine, it stated that the AV500W features a cruising speed of 170 km/h, with a maximum endurance of 8 hours when configured and lightly loaded for reconnaissance missions. This is reduced to 4 hours when the air vehicle is fully armed. The air vehicle has a specified operating radius of 200 km via line-of-sight (LOS) command protocols, with a service ceiling of 4,000 m (13,123 ft).

IHS Jane's understands that the AV500W is presently in an advanced stage of development with the production-ready design expected to be finalised in 2017, with its first flight targeted for the same year.

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