China's newly released drone is reportedly exact replica of MQ-28 Ghost Bat
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has unveiled a model of an FH-97A that is almost a direct replica of the Airpower Teaming System loyal wingman drone, now known as the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, according to a report of The Drive published on Thursday.
Developed for RAAF
The uncrewed aircraft was first developed by Boeing's Australian subsidiary for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), but the vehicle has also been acquired by the U.S. Air Force.
According to a Boeing press release, Australia’s Defence Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced the introduction of the FH-97A at a dedicated ceremony held at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland in March of 2022.
“The introduction of the new popular name is a rare and special moment in aviation history for our RAAF partners and industry team of over 35 Australian suppliers,” said, at the time, Glen Ferguson, director Airpower Teaming System Australia and International at Boeing.
“Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability,” said Ferguson.
Most recently, photos have emerged on social media reportedly showing what looks like a model of the FH-97A at a pavilion for CASC at the 2022 Zhuhai Airshow. The show, called the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, sees Chinese aerospace and defense contractors unveil new aircraft and prototype models.
Same same but different
In the images, one can clearly see how the FH-97A's new overall planform, especially the nose section, closely resembles the MQ-28. What is still to be determined is whether the FH-97A also has tricycle landing gear and is designed to take off and land from conventional runways.
The most notable difference between the two drones however is the repositioning of what is likely intended to represent an electro-optical/infrared sensor installed inside a stealthy gold-plated windowed enclosure. In addition, the FH-97A appears to boast dedicated side-looking sensor systems and an array of cameras that could allow the drone to spot and track multiple targets from different angles. This is not a bad improvement!
All these differences might indeed indicate that the FH-97A is more focused on air-to-air combat than its clone and is equipped to launch various types of payloads.
It seems that the new drone has been designed to provide a layer of close-in defense, especially for more vulnerable aerial assets that would be primary targets for any opponent. The new unmanned aircraft could be well suited to escorting fighters or other drones and providing them close-in defense as part of a larger manned-unmanned team mix.
As impressive as these features are, the FH-97A is merely at its mock-up stage. No news has been made as to whether its makers plan to actually see it come to life. If they do, however, the aircraft would prove a formidable adversary.
Lithium is the best energy storage option available today but may not be for long as humanity turns to simpler options.