Algeria and Egypt have revealed they are operating Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the CH-3, CH-4 and Wing Loong.
Footage of CH-3 and CH-4 UAVs in Algerian service emerged in October during a visit to Ain Ouessara Air Base in the 1st Military Region by Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
Although not fitted with weapons, the CH-4 seen was fitted with hardpoints. Algeria already operates Denel Seeker UAVs.
Egypt, meanwhile, on 14 October revealed imagery of one of its Wing Loong armed UAVs in a video to mark the 45th anniversary of the Egyptian Air Force. A single UAV was seen taking off with a missile under each wing and later seen destroying a target on the ground. Egypt is known to have operated Wing Loongs for some time, but only last month has this been officially acknowledged.
The CH-3 is manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). With a wingspan of 8 metres, the CH-3 follows a canard configuration. It was first seen in 2008 and has been exported to Pakistan (as the Burraq), Nigeria and possibly Myanmar. It has a 12 hour endurance and 180 km radius of action. It can be fitted with FT-5 guided bombs or AR-1 missiles – Nigeria’s CH-3s are armed and have been used against Boko Haram militants. Non-military uses have also been found for the CH-3, such as aerial mapping – in 2017 CH-3s began such duties in Zambia in a first for China and Africa.
The CH-4 was introduced in 2011 and has been in Chinese service since 2014. It has also been sold to Iraq – Iraq’s CH-4Bs have been armed with AR-1 missiles and FT-9 50 kg guided bombs and used to attack Islamic State targets. Saudi Arabia has also acquired the type.
The CH-4 has a maximum take-off weight of 1 330 kg and a payload of 345 kg in addition to its electro-optical turret and synthetic aperture radar. The aircraft has a wingspan of 18 metres and length of 8.5 metres. It is powered by a 100 hp class piston engine giving a top speed of 235 km/h and cruise speed of 180 km/h with endurance of up to 40 hours.
The Wing Loong is one of China’s most notable UAVs, similar to the American Predator. Manufactured by Chengdu, the 1 100 kg Wing Loong (Pterodactyl) first flew in 2007 and is believed to have entered People’s Liberation Army Air Force service in 2008 (where it is known as the Gongji-1/GJ-1) and exported to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The Wing Loong I has a wingspan of 14 metres and length of 9 metres. Endurance is 20 hours and top speed around 280 km/h. Payload is 200 kg and includes two missiles.
Chengdu has also produced the larger Wing Loong II (which can carry 12 missiles) and Wing Loong 1D with a composite airframe. The Wing Loong II is believed to be in service with the United Arab Emirates. Other Wing Loong versions are planned – China estimates the series could generate $2 billion in revenue over the next five years, with production at two dozen aircraft a year, although there are plans to increase this to 30 a year.