Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC), a unit of Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) will reportedly jointly produce 48 Chinese-designed next-generation reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (UAE MALE) and strike-capable Wing Loong II strike-capable. Pakistan has been mulling the purchase of additional Chinese-made UAVs for a number of years. The Pakistan Air Force is currently operating four China-made Caihong 4 (CH-4), or Rainbow 4, UAVs. If confirmed, the deal would be one of the largest-known foreign orders placed for the Chinese-developed turboprop-powered UAV. However, no details were revealed about the value of the deal, when it was struck, the delivery schedule, and whether all of the platforms are intended for use by the Pakistani military.
The Wing Loong II has been designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, a subsidiary of AVIC. With an overall length of 11 meters, a wingspan of 20.5 meters, and a height of 4.1 meters, the Wing Loong II UAV was first publicly revealed at the Airshow China 2016 in November 2016. The Wing Loong II UAV can carry a number of different missiles and bombs including Lan Jian 7 (Blue Arrow 7) laser-guided air-to-surface missiles, TG100 laser/INS/GPS-guided bombs, and the AR-1/HJ-10 anti-tank missile — the Chinese equivalent to the American-made Hellfire missile. Overall, the Wing Loong II can purportedly carry a payload of up to 400 kilograms. The UAV can fly for about 20 hours with a maximum speed of 370 kilometers per hour. The Wing Loong II has an operational radius of 1,500 kilometers.
China’s latest strike-capable drone is an upgraded variant of the Wing Loong UAV first introduced into service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2008. An export version of the drone has been sold to a number of international customers including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. In terms of size and payload, the original Wing Loong combat drone is comparable to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which is slated to be retired by the U.S. Air Force by the end of the year. The UAV has been primarily developed for export and has been marketed by Chinese developers as a cheaper alternative to the MQ-1 Predator. The per-unit price is estimated at around $1-2 million in comparison to, for example, the MQ-9 Reaper’s $30 million.