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New chopper drone may be deployed along India border: Chinese state media

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China’s newly-developed helicopter-drone that made its maiden flight last week may be deployed on the Sino-India border, state media reports said on Monday.

The AR500C unmanned helicopter is equipped to carry out fire strikes and disrupt electronic circuitry of its target at heights above 15,000 feet, state media reported.

“The test flight of the AR500C came at a time when China-India border tensions have been flaring up, as Chinese border defence troops have bolstered border control measures,” Global Times, the tabloid run by the ruling communist party said in a news report.

The tabloid claimed that the Chinese action was a response to India’s recent, illegal construction of defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region.

New Delhi has already dismissed China’s allegations, saying, in fact, Chinese soldiers were hindering patrolling by the Indian armed forces.

“Any suggestion that Indian troops had undertaken activity across the LAC in the western [Ladakh] sector or the Sikkim sector is not accurate,” external affairs ministry spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava said last week.

Srivastava added: “All Indian activities are entirely on the Indian side of the LAC. In fact, it is [the] Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns.”

State media reports about the new drone and its deployment are part of the aggressive narrative put forward by China that it’s India, which is to blame for the soaring tension at the border in Sikkim and Ladakh sectors.

China’s state media arms had been similarly aggressive and anti-India during the Doklam (Donglang) stand-off in Bhutan in 2017.

Observers say it won’t be very surprising if there are reports of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carrying out military drills on a “plateau” near a “border” in the days ahead.

“Capable of conducting missions including reconnaissance, communication relay, electronic disruption and fire strike at high altitude, this versatile and easy-to-operate drone could help safeguard China’s southwestern borders with India,” analysts told the tabloid.

Developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the unmanned helicopter successfully made its maiden flight at an AVIC base in Poyang, east China’s Jiangxi province, in which it conducted several maneuvers including hovering, horizontal and vertical moves, another leading state media arm, China Central Television (CCTV) reported over the weekend.

“As China’s first unmanned helicopter designed to fly in plateau areas, the AR500C can take off at an elevation of 5,000 meters and has a ceiling of 6,700 meters. It has an endurance of five hours, maximum speed of 170 kilometers an hour and a maximum takeoff weight of 500 kilograms,” the GT report said.

The Chinese military currently operates the Z-8G, China’s first large transport helicopter, which also focuses on plateau operations.

It can take off from nearly 15000 feet above sea level and has a ceiling of nearly 20000 feet and lift troops and supplies to high-altitude areas.


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