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China replicates Iran’s ‘Shahed-136’ kamikaze drone

China appears to have developed its own version of Iran’s much-vaunted HESA ‘Shahed 136‘, Ukrainian publisher Defense Express reports. Called the “Sunflower 200,” (source in Ukrainian and translated by Google Translate for our purposes), it is allegedly of “great quality” and a very close copy of the original Iranian drone. First showcased at China’s ‘Army-2023’ exhibition, it has raised concerns about the proliferation of such drones.

Carbon-copy drone

The HESA “Shahed 136,”, called the “Geran-2” in Russian service, is an Iranian autonomous pusher-prop drone designed and manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries to function as a loitering munition. The munition is designed to attack ground targets from a distance. It is fired in multiples from a launch rack in batches of five or more to overwhelm air defenses by consuming their resources during the attack. The first public footage of the drone was released in December 2021.

The ‘Shahed 136’ boasts a sleek delta-wing shape to increase stability in flight and also comes with stabilizing rudders positioned at the tips for added control. The nose section of the drone carries a powerful warhead that weighs an estimated 66–110 pounds (30–50 kilograms). Coming in at around 441 pounds in weight (200 kg), the drone can fly at speeds of over 115 mph (185 kph), has a wingspan of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters), and has a formidable range of up to 1,553 miles (2,500 kilometers).

The new Chinese version reportedly weighs around 386 pounds (175 kilograms) but appears to have a similar overall payload capacity, dimensions, and range. The new drone also has a declared fuel capacity of 42 U.S. gallons (160 liters), which may indicate the capacity of its progenitor, the ‘Shahed-136’.

The launch frame and drone assembly are portable, allowing the unit to be mounted on any military or commercial truck. The aircraft is launched at a slight upward angle with rocket launch assistance (RATO). After launch, the drone’s Iranian-made Mado MD-550 four-cylinder piston engine takes over to power the drone when loitering. Presumably, the Chinese version is deployed in much the same fashion.

China’s intentions unknown

It is unclear how many and quickly China plans to manufacture its ‘Sunflower 200’ drones. It is also not obvious whether or not they are intended for Chinese military purposes only or will be exported to the Russian Federation. Whatever the case, as Defense Express notes, this now seems to indicate that Russian army forces now have multiple potential suppliers for these deadly loitering munitions.


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