Upgraded combat drone is unveiled

Updated: 2015-09-22 07:03

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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China unveiled a high-end, multi-role combat drone during a recent aviation expo, a move that an industry expert said aims at winning a bigger share of the international military drone market.

The Wing Loong II, which was developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China's Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute in Sichuan province, is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, multi-role drone capable of performing surveillance and reconnaissance as well as air-to-ground strike operations, according to a fact sheet distributed by AVIC during the Aviation Expo China 2015, which concluded in Beijing over the weekend.

The unmanned aircraft was based on its predecessor, Wing Loong I. According to the US magazine Foreign Policy, Wing Loong I has been sold to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, for an estimated $1 million per unit.

Compared with Wing Loong I, the new drone has an optimized aerodynamic design, an improved airframe, and upgraded airborne systems, as well as a more powerful turboprop engine featuring better capabilities in terms of flight, payload and information capacity, materials from AVIC said.

With a much larger size, the Wing Loong II is capable of carrying up to 12 laser-guided bombs or missiles, up to have a total weight of 480 kg. By contrast, Wing Loong I can carry only two bombs or missiles together weighing 100 kg.

Standard equipment installed on the drone includes a number of cutting-edge devices such as an electro-optical reconnaissance/targeting system and a radar warning instrument.

AVIC notes that engineers can also add other equipment to the craft based on user requirements, which gives it additional capabilities for a wide range of missions such as electronic warfare, search and rescue and signal relay.

Each operation unit is composed of several drones, a ground control station and an integrated support system, according to the company.

"The advanced drone will help China obtain a bigger share in the international market because it will be one of the most capable military drones in the market," said Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine.

"The Wing Loong II is equipped with a satellite data link system, so it can operate in an environment with bad ground signals, which means it can be of great use to nations that have vast mountainous areas or plateaus," he said. "In addition, the drone will be very attractive to countries that now deploy the Wing Loong I, as they have realized the good capabilities and reliability of Chinese-made drones."

The multitasking capacity, large payload and long operational range will be the major attraction to foreign buyers, Wang said.

AVIC has not revealed whether the Wing Loong II has been put into mass-production, but a report published by IHS Jane's Defense Weekly last week said its flight testing has already started.