China looks for new drones, intelligent vehicles for logistics

Liu Zhen, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 13 2022 06:29 AM

This photo shows the Chengdu Institute of Aviation Industry WL-10, a medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, a day before the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, southern China's Guangdong province on September 27, 2021. Noel Celis / AFP
This photo shows the Chengdu Institute of Aviation Industry WL-10, a medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, a day before the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, southern China's Guangdong province on September 27, 2021. Noel Celis / AFP

 Hundreds of Chinese arms makers showcase their equipment at PLA event highlighted on state television

Demonstrations included a drone evacuating a ‘wounded soldier’ on a stretcher and an unmanned fire engine in action

China's military has brought together hundreds of arms makers to showcase their products as the PLA looks for new drones and intelligent vehicles to boost logistics, according to state television.

The event – organized by the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Logistics Support Force and held at an unspecified location – was highlighted on state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday, though it did not say when it took place.

The Joint Logistics Support Force, which is seeking to develop an unmanned intelligent logistics system, was said to have inspected and assessed the performance of a range of new equipment on display at the event.

Footage aired in the report showed some of the drone demonstrations. 

They included an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) evacuating a “wounded soldier” on a stretcher, an unmanned six-wheel truck transporting 80 tons of munitions, an unmanned excavator negotiating difficult terrain, and an unmanned fire engine in action.

The report also showed a reconnaissance and combat drone – identified as a TB-001 Twin-Tailed Scorpion – in action, along with fixed-wing UAVs and other intelligent logistics equipment.

Both state-owned and private Chinese arms companies took part in the event.

Lieutenant Colonel Zhang Qingguo, a staff officer with an equipment supply unit under the Joint Logistics Support Force, told the broadcaster: 

“By selecting mature and versatile unmanned intelligent support equipment, upgrading and improving our equipment currently in service, as well as conducting research on such equipment, we are gradually developing a whole system of unmanned intelligent equipment.”

The PLA has deployed a number of combat and spy drones in recent years as China has risen to become a major developer and manufacturer of UAVs. Chinese companies have also become a key exporter of military drones.

At the same time, the Chinese military has sought to use drones more widely in the area of logistics.

This has been seen during the ongoing border stand-off with India in the Himalayas that began in 2020. The PLA has used logistics drones to deliver food, medicine and ammunition to troops stationed in remote areas that are inaccessible to vehicles. Those drones had to be specifically designed for high-altitude, low-oxygen and mountainous terrain.

China’s military has also sent drones to outposts in the disputed South China Sea, some of which can be used for both logistics and combat purposes.

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