Chinese J-6W Drone

China has over the years converted a large number of J-6 fighter aircraft into rudimentary drones. As per the well known website, Sramble, up to 200 J-6 have been converted by 2006 for deep penetration bombing missions.

They are similar to  full scale aerial targets (FSATs) used by United States but the usage of the J-6W drones has been a subject of much speculation. One reason of this has been the placement of a number of these drones at an air base in eastern China raising concerns that they may be intended for use more as UCAV than as target drones.

This appears likely as the aircraft converted have had the wing-root 30mm guns, ejection seat and other life support systems removed with new remote flight control, navigational and fire control systems including datalink installed. Some J-6Ws have been fitted with underwing  two 250kg bombs, suggesting their role as low-cost ground attack UCAVs, or as cruise missiles or decoys to probe, disrupt even suppress enemy air defence systems.

It is likely that they are used in combination with cruise missiles and fighter aircraft, to overwhelm an air defence system with sheer numbers.

An upgraded variant has been developed with the cockpit completely removed. 

According to a Chinese magazine, PLAAF is exploring new mission ideas for these drones including ground attack and suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) wherein  these drones were tested as an unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) for ground attack role at the PLAAF Weapon Test Base located in the northwest Gobi Desert.

Based on the deployment of these drones, this capability appears to be targeted towards Taiwan with According to Jane’s World Air Forces ISSUE 34-20111 speculating that possibly up to 300 J-6 could be launched on one way missions against Taiwan but as with other air assets, it can be used against other potential foes also.

China has also converted J-5, and J-7 into UAVs for use as targets. The PLAAF has also converted some early variants J-7 (mainly J-7I model) for similar target drone role.