China plans to develop its next-generation cruise missiles based on a modular design, allowing them to be tailor-made for specific combat situations with a high level of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a senior missile designer.
"We plan to adopt a 'plug and play' approach in the development of new cruise missiles, which will enable our military commanders to tailor-make missiles in accordance with combat conditions and their specific requirements," Wang Changqing, director of the General Design Department of the Third Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, said.
"Moreover, our future cruise missiles will have a very high level of AI and automation," Wang was quoted as saying by the state-run China Daily.
"They will allow commanders to control them in a real-time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or even to add more tasks to in-flight missiles," he said.
He added that future combat would require cost-efficient and flexible weapons, modular design would therefore be a good solution.
For the first time, last year, China showcased its Dongfeng-21D missile, the anti-ship ballistic missile described as the "carrier killer" which had US defence officials concerned as it could blow up aircraft carriers from a distance of about 1,500 km to 1,700 km.
Chinese engineers had researched the use of artificial intelligence in missiles for many years, and they were world leaders in the field, he said.
Modular design was not a new concept in missile design. The European missile developer and manufacturer MBDA displayed its CVW102 Flexis modular missile concept at last year's Paris Air Show.
The system would allow configuration of missiles in accordance with mission requirements.