It is widely assumed that this unique “joined wing” unmanned air system, or a follow-on scaled up version of it, will attempt to fulfill a similar mission set as the American Q-4 Global Hawk series of airframes and the craft has only been seen in what appears to be mockup form, until now. I would imagine that this core airframe design will be scaled larger over time, similar to the latest Global Hawk/Trident variations, so what you see here may be analogous to the developmental RQ-4As that are now serving NASA for test duties. Key roles of a HALE (High-Altitude-Long-Endurance) UAV like this will be for battlefield surveillance, and network relaying. In fact, a daisy chain of these aircraft could provide line of sight connectivity back to the mainland without satellite communications. Yet the most pressing need for China’s building military deterrence and “anti-access” capability will for this aricraft to extend far off China’s shores to gain targeting quality location data on enemy flotillas and sending that information back to the mainland to be distributed to China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile squadrons. More can be read here about China’s unique need for high-quality long range maritime targeting capabilities: http://aviationintel.com/chinas-anti-ship-ballistic-missile-the-lost-rq-170-sentinel/
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