ChangKong-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle / Target Drone
The ChangKong-1 is a radio-controlled , jet-powered subsonic unmanned aerial vehicle developed from the Soviet Lavochkin La-17C. Developed by Nanjing Institute of Aeronautics in the late 1960s, the ChangKong-1 has been in serving with the PLAAF since the late 1970s for target drone and nuclear air sampling roles.
The PRC obtained a small number of the Lavochkin La-17 radio-controlled, ramjet-powered target drone from the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. These drones were being sued for airborne- and air-defence weapon testing and practicing. Acquisition of additional units was unsuccessful due to Moscow’s decision in 1960 to stop all of its technical aids to the PRC. This forced the PLA to develop its own indigenous target drone ChangKong-1.
The ChangKong-1 project began in the early 1960s, with the development work carried out by the PLAAF Weapon Test & Training Base. The chief designer of the programme is General Zhao Xu, who is known as ‘the Father of Chinese UAV’. Several La-17C examples were dissembled by Chinese engineers for study and reverse engineering. Because of the PRC’s incapability to produce a suitable ramjet engine, the indigenous target drone was powered by a Wopen-6 (WP-6) turbojet engine originally developed for the Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19 Farmer) fighter.
The ChangKong-1 successfully flew in December 1966, but the development programme was severely disrupted by the political impact of the ‘Culture Revolution’ in the 1960s~70s. The ChangKong-1 development was resumed by Nanjing Institute of Aeronautics (now Nanjing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, NUAA) in the 1970s and the development did not finish until 1976, eight years after the project began. The ChangKong-1 entered PLAAF service in the late 1970s for weapon testing and air defence training.
ChangKong-1A Nuclear Air Sampling UAV
The nuclear air sampling variant ChangKong-1A was first deployed in Lop Nor nuclear test site in 1978, ending the history of using manned aircraft for air sampling missions in China’s nuclear tests.
ChangKong-1B/C/E Target Drone
A number of improved variants have been introduced, including the ChangKong-1B low-altitude target drone, the ChangKong-1C High-manoeuvrability target drone, and the ChangKong-1E ultra-low-altitude target drone.
The ChangKong-2 supersonic target drone was derived from the ChangKong-1.
The CK-2 programme began in the early 1990s in response to the PLAAF’s requirement for a supersonic target drone to test its new generation air-to-air missile. No detailed information on the CK-2 is available, but it is understood that the drone first flew in the early 1990s, and its first successful supersonic flight took place in early 1995. The drone features a digital flight control, which was seen as a major breakthrough in China's UAV technology.
The ChangKong-1 is generally similar to the La-17 in appearance. The UAV has a slim, round fuselage with a sharp nose. The wings, vertical fin and tails are all square-shape. A WP-6 turbojet engine is mounted under the fuselage. The mission payloads are carried on the two under-wing pylons. The UAV is controlled by autopilot and radio command.
Launch / Recovery
Unlike the La-17, which is carried and released by the carrier aircraft in the midair, the ChangKong-1 uses a unique ‘skateboard’ system to takeoff from ground directly. The drone is mounted on an un-powered three-wheel glide, which performs as the landing gear during the takeoff. Once the drone approaches the takeoff speed on the runway, the glide is separated from the drone and slowed down by a break chute. Early variants ChangKong-1s were only powered by the WP-6 turbojet engine during the takeoff, and therefore required a fairly long runway to generate enough speed. The later variants are accelerated by rocket boosters and only require a short runway for takeoff.
Since the ChangKong-1 was originally designed as a target drone, the recovering was not a primary concern in its design. However, to reduce the cost if the drone was missed by the weapon, as well as the requirement for other missions such as air sampling and aerial photography, the drone could be recovered by a guided belly-landing, which requires certain repair before it can fly again. Later variants of the ChangKong-1 might be capable of parachute recovering.
The mission equipment onboard the ChangKong-1 includes five passive radar reflectors, four HaiYing light reflecting missiles, and wingtip-mounted infrared equipment pods.
The ChangKong-1 is powered by a WP-6 turbojet, rated at 24.5 kN. The fuel capacity is 600kg (820 litre volume). The models B and C can increase capacity to 820kg with fuel pods.
Dimentions: Wingspan 7.5m; Length
8.435m; Height 2.955m
Weight: Empty 2,000~2,500kg; Fuel 600~840kg
Flight endurance: 70min (low level); or 45~60min (high-level)
Service ceiling: 10,000~18,000m
Operational altitude: 500 ~ 5000m
Last update: 23 June 2008