State-owned aerospace and defence prime Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is on track to perform the maiden flight of its new strike-capable Wing Loong I-D reconnaissance medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) by the end of 2018, following the handover of an all-composite airframe for the prototype air vehicle by contractor Sichuan Xinwanxing Carbon Fiber Composite Co Ltd (Xinwanxing) in late August.
According to information released by Xinwanxing, the 330 kg composite airframe – which was fabricated at the company’s primary production facility in Jiajiang county, Sichuan province – measures 8.7 m long and 3.2 m tall with a wingspan of 17.6 m, matching the original specifications stated by AVIC at the 2016 iteration of the Airshow China exhibition where it first announced its intention to develop an improved variant of successful Wing Loong I UAV.
The Wing Loong I-D will be powered by a piston engine, with the company aiming to achieve a maximum speed of 280 km/h and a service ceiling of 7,500 m (24,600 ft). An operating endurance of 35 hours is also desired.
AVIC also stated that the new variant will be capable of carrying up to 400 kg of external stores, although details of its internal carriage capacity have not been made public.
In contrast, the baseline Wing Loong I design comprises a conventional aluminium fuselage supported by composite structural components and has entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) under the designation of Gongji-1 (Attack-1). It is also operated by the armed forces of Egypt, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
The Wing Loong I measures 9 m long, 2.8 m tall, and has a wingspan of 14 m. The air vehicle – which performed its maiden flight in 2007 following two years of development – has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,200 kg and a maximum payload capacity of 200 kg, split evenly between internal and external stores.
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