In recent years, the People's Republic has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the defense industry, steadily progressing in the development of advanced drones, missile systems, aircraft, warships, and other weapons in response to the United States' decision to 'pivot to Asia' and beef up its military footprint in the Asia-Pacific region.
The new WJ-700 Lieying ('Falcon') combat drone has been praised in Chinese media for its superior capabilities, including its capacity to fly at altitudes of up to 15,000 meters, carry powerful missiles, and "make the combat formation scenes in the movies a reality."
According to a recent TV report by China Central Television, the WJ-700, which made its first flight in January 2021, can operate independently or in coordination with other drones and is at the heart of a new integrated surveillance and strike program developed for the People's Liberation Army.
The Falcon, which was first unveiled at an airshow in late 2018, weighs 3,500 kg, has an estimated endurance time of 20 hours, a cruising speed of up to 600 km per hour, and the ability to carry a variety of heavy weapons, including air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship armaments, and bunker-busting munitions.
Ground control and other uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aircraft are intended to communicate with the drone via satellite and ground-based stations.
CASIC told the Global Times earlier this year that the drone might be exported internationally in the next five to ten years in addition to domestic needs.
The monoplane design contrasts with previous WJ drones, such as the WJ-500, WJ-600, and WJ-600A/D, which had a vehicle-launch platform and a cruise-missile-like appearance refined by Soviet designers in the 1970s and 1980s.
China has already established itself as a global leader in selling unmanned aerial vehicles for both civilian and military purposes. By 2024, the Asian nation is predicted to account for about a quarter of the global drone market, bringing in billions of dollars for domestic manufacturers.