China Adds ‘Shape Shifting’ Cruise Missiles


The Eurasian Times is reporting that China has developed “shape shifting” technology that allows its cruise missiles to switch between being stealthy and appearing to radar as the size of an airliner. The publication says Chinese researchers have created an inexpensive retractable umbrella-like device that radically changes the radar signature of the missiles at will. Quoting a translation of a Chinese scientific paper, the publication says the device is made from off-the-shelf materials and can make the missiles appear in a variety of forms. “The veil can also randomly alternate shape and length, generating bizarre patterns to confuse computer or radar operators,” the publication quoted the study as saying.

The technology is nothing new. The U.S. uses a variety of similar devices to cloak the identity of its secret projects while still making them visible to other aircraft and air traffic control. The difference with the Chinese tech is its ability to randomly change the radar appearance of missiles and other aircraft. The idea is to buy extra time to get the weapon to its target before countermeasures are launched. The publication says China has embraced cruise missiles in a big way but most of its inventory is based on Russian designs. It’s now working on its own designs as part of its arms buildup.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Well, they do make lots of cheap umbrellas in Communist China. Wonder if they will last longer than they normally do, which ain’t very long. Cloaking started in WWII, didn’t it? 80 years ago.

    • “Cloaking” isn’t really a thing. Chaff, jamming, and other radar countermeasures though, sure, nothing new there. The Chinese are actually pretty good at that stuff. But, dynamically altering RCS at will, in-flight, well, that’s something else if it works. Could result in a number challenges for the folks they are shooting at.

  2. Disguising a missile as an airliner is about as ethical as hiding munitions on a passenger ship, the Lusitania not withstanding.

    • I don’t think you understood the statement. It gives it a radar signature the size of and airliners signature.
      Shoot, the F105 had a radar reflector on it’s nose gear to help a GCI controller see it on final.

      • If you are looking for ethics from one of the worst human rights violators on earth, don’t bother. They would disguise the missiles as an orphanage if they thought it would help.

  3. So, are the Chinese now working on their own designs because they are considering Russia to be a potential adversary? If the military hardware Russia sent to China is anything like the non-military stuff they sent, calling it junk would be a compliment.

    • I don’t think they see the Russians as particularly advanced anymore. I’m sure they intend to overtake them tech wise.

    • China doesn’t need Russia anymore. Hasn’t for some time. Their tech is better than the Russian’s on most points, and at least as good on the rest. Their missiles specifically are pretty much top shelf.

  4. Wonder what your fuel flow is when your little cruise missile goes from the diameter of about an 18”sewer pipe to the frontal area of a B737?

    For bonus points that little knock off Williams International jet engine now has to go from 732 pounds of thrust to what now to push around that all new cross section out front.