Guizhou WZ-7 Soar Dragon
Guizhou WZ-7 Soar Dragon

Chinese PLAAF Unveils High-Altitude Long Endurance Guizhou WZ-7 Soar Dragon

The Guizhou WZ-7 Soar Dragon will be displayed at the Airshow China at Zhuhai starting September 28. The Guizhou Soar Dragon, military designation WZ-7, is an unmanned aerial vehicle of the High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) type, featuring an unusual joined, tandem wingplan. The Soar Dragon, designed by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and constructed by the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation for service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was originally displayed asa mock up model at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2006.

As of 2011, the Soar Dragon was not known to have yet conducted its maiden flight, however it was undergoing radar cross-section and other electromagnetic tests in anticipation of flight testing. The Soar Dragon entered serial production in 2015 to 2016. In 2018, the unmanned aircraft system was spotted in PLA military bases. On July 24, 2019, a Soar Dragon followed an American Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Antietam as it transited the Taiwan Strait, marking its first operational use. As of 2019, the Soar Dragon was being operated from three strategic sites: an airbase in Jilin province, Yishitung near Tibet and Lingshui on Hainan Island.

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Chinese PLAAF Unveils High-Altitude Long Endurance Guizhou WZ-7 Soar Dragon
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force displays for the first time the WZ-7 high-altitude reconnaissance drone at the Airshow China 2021 in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, from September 28 to October 3. (Photo by Global Times)

The Soar Dragon has a similar role and mission to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk operated by the United States Air Force, but the aircraft design, including the unusual tandem wings and vertical stabilizers, is different. Optimized for long-endurance missions at high altitude, the aircraft features an unusual tandem, joined wing platform. As of 2011 it is being developed by the People’s Republic of China for reconnaissance and maritime patrol missions.

Large by the standards of UAVs, the Soar Dragon’s tandem, joined-wing design allows for a more rigid, less flexible wing than other configurations, with benefits said to include an increased lift-to-drag ratio and less complex flight controls than a HALE UAV with a conventional wing would require. The aircraft is powered by a Guizhou WP-13 turbojet engine, a copy of the Soviet Tumansky R-13; it is anticipated that a newer, improved engine, will be installed in production aircraft. The air intake for the engine is mounted atop the fuselage, with the engine itself mounted in the rear of the aircraft.

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