China Sells 48 Combat-Proven Wing Loong II Killer Aerial Drones to Pakistan

Flying for Pakistan
Wing Loong II and its weapons load. The missile at lower left is an AKD-10. (Photo: CAIG)

The Pakistan Armed Forces (PAF) will acquire four squadrons of China's combat-proven "CAIG Wing-Loong II" unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

PAF said it has placed the order for 48 of this medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE), multi-role UAVs with both reconnaissance and strike capabilities. CAIG Wing Loong II is China's largest UCAV and is regarded as that country's version of the General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper (Predator B), the deadliest UCAV in the world. It even looks similar to the MQ-9A, which entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 2007.

The PAF's Wing Loong II acquisition is the largest number ever sold to a foreign country. Wing Loong II is currently seeing combat in Yemen where the Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces are using it against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

In April 2018, a Chinese-made AKD-10 air-to-surface missile fired from a Wing Loong II killed Saleh al-Samad, the president of the Houthi's Supreme Political Council, at the port city of Hodeidah.

PAF said the terms of the deal also include the eventual co-production of the Wing Loong II by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group (CAIG) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra.

PAF's decision to acquire a large number of Wing-Loong II UCAVs seems to be its answer to the news that rival India is in talks with the United States to acquire an undisclosed number of General Atomics Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems. Sea Guardian is the naval version of the the MQ-9A Reaper.

India said its Sea Guardians will be used to patrol the waters off its huge land mass. The aerial drones will be unarmed.

China is marketing the Wing-Loong II as an accurate killing platform whose lethality can easily be enhanced by a series of upgrades. First flown on Feb. 17, 2017, this machine is China's largest UCAV and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). As a UCAV, Wing-Loong II is being marketed to international customers as a cheaper but equally capable version of the MQ-9A Reaper.

The Wing Loong drones were developed by CADI or the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, which is a division of state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The drones are manufactured by CAIG.

The Wing-Loong series has a reputation as a "pioneer in wartime, an engineer in peacetime and versatile everywhere," said Li Yidong, deputy chief designer of CADI. He noted that previous models had launched thousands of rounds of various weapons with an accuracy rate of over 90 percent.

As a UCAV, Wing Loong II is a cost-effective, easy-to-operate, multi-purpose and long-endurance hunter-reconnaissance UAS. It's intended for use as a surveillance and aerial reconnaissance platform and as a UCAV is outfitted with air-to-surface weapons.

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