China has secured an international contract for its Wing Loong II strike-capable reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), marking another milestone in the country's bid to become a major military exporter.
China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported on 28 February said the deal represented the "biggest overseas purchase order in the history of Chinese [UAV] foreign military sales". The identity of the customer and the size and value of the contract were not disclosed.
The export order was revealed on the same day that the Wing Loong II completed its maiden flight.
Li Yidong, chief designer of the Wing-Loong UAV series, was quoted by Xinhua as saying, "[This first flight] marks China's new generation reconnaissance and strike [UAV]. Following the United States, China becomes another country capable of developing such new-generation large reconnaissance and strike UAVs."
Li added that the Wing Loong II has been developed to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, and ground strike operations but with system extensions it can also perform missions including intelligence collection, electronic warfare, and search and rescue.
The Wing Loong II was developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI), a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). A production-ready version of the UAV was unveiled at the Airshow China 2016 exhibition in early November 2016.
CADI also developed and built the first-generation Wing Loong I medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. The first-generation Wing Loong I has been exported to the Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. It is also operated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
Jane's has previously reported that the Wing Loong II bears a strong resemblance to the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper UAV, with its low-wing monoplane slender fuselage and empennage with a prominent V-tail and ventral fin.
The platform is constructed from composites, with official AVIC literature quoting an overall length of 11 m, a wingspan of 20.5 m, and a height of 4.1 m.
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