The Pakistani air force’s Sherdils Aerobatic Team first announced on Sunday that the state-run Pakistan Aeronautical Complex company and China’s government-owned Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group will “jointly produce the 48 Wing Loong II UCAV” – a type of advanced military drone.
The Global Times considered the official mouthpiece of the Chinese regime confirmed the news of the drone deal between China and Pakistan describing as the most significant arms deal of its kind to date. Pakistani Air Force’s Sherdils Aerobatic Team also declared its purchase on its official Facebook account. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but reports suggest that the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China may have offered deep price cuts to close the sale. China Military Online, the official online portal of the Chinese military, also featured the deal indicating it is due to go ahead.
The Wing Loong II UCAV is a reconnaissance and strike multirole endurance drone, according to the official Xinhua News Agency which flew its maiden flight in February 2017. The Wing Loong II UCAV is reportedly more than 8 metres long – 4 metres tall, with a total wingspan of more than 18 metres. The weapon can reach altitudes of 5.6 miles and speeds of roughly 211 miles per hour. It is capable of being fitted with a variety of weapons and has the ability to perform combat operations as also civilian tasks, such as disaster assessment, meteorological operations and environmental protection.
It is understood that AVIC will dispatch a team of technicians to the South Asian country to help set up and test production lines there. The total market value of the nation’s UAV industry is tipped to grow by 40% a year on average to 60 billion yuan (US$9.1 billion) by 2020, Xinhua reported earlier this year, citing a report by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping told The Global Times, “US drones like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are technologically more advanced, but Washington limits their export… Chinese drones will eventually be more successful in the international market in the future as they perform similarly at a lower cost,” Song said. He added that Chinese-made Cauhong-series of UAVs were popular in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
An earlier report by the state-run Xinhua news agency stated that within 10 months of its maiden flight, multiple live firing tests had been conducted in accordance with the requirement of its customers, including stationary targets, moving targets, time sensitive targets and air-ground coordination. The addition of the drone system will greatly enhance the offensive drone capability of Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Both the countries also jointly manufacture JF-Thunder a single engine multi-role combat aircraft.