First “indigenous” look-alike Global Hawk, Reaper drones made a notable first public appearance recently.
On July 27, 2023, North Korea unveiled its new line of drones with a copy of the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper making an appearance. North Korea hosted its “Weapons and Equipment Exhibition 2023” in Pyongyang on Wednesday, in lieu of Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu visiting the country. Amongst the usual weaponry such as Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 ICBMs, North Korea’s first “indigenous” long endurance drones made a notable first public appearance.
Although development of the drones has been kept in the veils, it is expected that the origins of the development program date back to 2021. Back in January 2021, Kim Jong Un ordered the development of two UAV platforms: an unmanned striking equipment and a reconnaissance drone with an approximate range of 500km. According to KCTV the RQ-4 Global Hawk copy is designated Morning Star-4 (샛별-4, Saetbyol-4) and the MQ-9 copy the Morning Star-9 (샛별-9, Saetbyol-9). The numerical designation seems to be an obvious nod to the US counterparts.
Perhaps the more interesting of the two is the long endurance strategic reconnaissance platform. As greatly evident from the pictures, the platform seems to be a direct copy of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk. The overall layout of the aircraft is near identical to its original, from wing planform, engine nacelle shape. Analyst looking at satellite imagery of the drone spotted on a runway suggests a wingspan of around 35m (115 feet), near identical to that of the earlier Global Hawk model’s wingspan of 35.4m (116 feet).
To compare different elements of the Morning Star-4 to the RQ-4, many components are noticeable with a deeper look. The most obvious is external…
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