September 27, 2015: Strategy Page
On September 7th a Pakistani UAV used laser guided missiles to kill three Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. This was a first for Pakistan. While Pakistan has officially condemned and opposed similar strikes by American UAVs in North Waziristan, it never banned the American use of armed UAVs in certain parts of Pakistan. The U.S. refused to sell Pakistan UAVs that could carry laser guided missiles, mainly because the Americans don’t trust Pakistan. So Pakistan went looking for other suppliers and eventually bought a similar UAV (the CH-2) from China in 2009. Pakistan was soon producing a local version, Burraq. The earliest CH-2 models were unarmed, but the latest version (CH-3A) can carry a max payload of 180 kg for six hours. China supplies two missiles similar to the American Hellfire. One of these, the laser guided AR-1, weighs 45 kg and has a range of 8,000 meters. This is said to be the one Pakistan is using.
Pakistan apparently won’t stop with the Burraq. There is a more advanced armed UAV being offer by China. Called the Wing Loong (that's Chinese for Pterodactyl, a Jurassic period flying dinosaur) this UAV which can be equipped to carry two BA-7 laser guided missiles (similar to the Hellfire) or two 60 kg (110 pound) GPS guided bombs (similar to the U.S. SDB). This UAV has been around for a while but it has taken time to get it working reliably when used to hit targets with laser guided missiles. Since 2008 Chinese aircraft manufacturer (AVIC) has been showing off photos and videos of a prototype for a clone of the American MQ-1 Predator UAV that tuned out to be Wing Loong. This in 2012 one was seen in flight, over the capital of Uzbekistan, which, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) were the first export customers. It was later revealed that development on Wing Loong began in 2005, first flight was in 2007 and Chinese troops got the first ones in 2008 for testing under more realistic conditions.
While Wing Loong is similar in shape to the larger American MQ-9 Reaper, in size it's almost identical to the 1.2 ton Predator. Wing Loong weighs 1.1 tons, has a 14 meter (46 feet) wingspan, and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. It has max altitude of 5,300 meters (16,400 feet) and an endurance of over 20 hours. Payload is 200 kg. The base price of Wing Loong is about a million dollars. But additional sensors and fire control equipment for one able to use laser guided missiles increases that to several million dollars. That is still about half the price of a similarly equipped Predator. Unlike the United States, which restricts the sale of armed UAVS, China will sell to anyone who can pay, no questions asked. The only problem Pakistan has is a shortage of cash. That’s why Pakistan cooperates at all with the United States; billions of dollars in military aid.
For several decades a growing number of Chinese commercial firms have been developing military UAVs. China is quite proud of its thriving commercial UAV industry, which produced a wide range of models. For example in mid-2014 China announced that a civilian UAV, used for mapping and land use surveys, recently stayed in the air for 30 hours, setting a record for Chinese UAVs. The previous record for Chinese UAVs was 16 hours. This long endurance UAV was developed by a government agency (CASM, or Chinese Academy of Surveying & Mapping) and has limited military use. CASM has developed several small UAVs for survey duties. These UAVs all feature lightweight materials and tend to be under 50 kg (110 pounds) with small payloads (usually 5 kg/11 pounds). These take advantage of new lightweight and powerful cameras to economically monitor Chinese farming and natural resources. Some of these UAVs are also believed to be used by the police and security services. Export customers are welcome.