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Air Platforms

Airshow China 2018: Wing Loong II armed reconnaissance UAV enters PLAAF service

08 November 2018
The PLAAF has inducted the Gongji-2 MALE UAV for armed reconnaissance missions. Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong

The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) revealed at the Airshow China 2018 exhibition on 6-11 November in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, that it has acquired the Aviation Industry Corporation of China's (AVIC's) armed reconnaissance Wing Loong II medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV), which is known in PLAAF service as the Gongji-2 ('Attack 2' or GJ-2).

PLAAF officials declined to provide details about the specific configuration and capabilities of the displayed GJ-2 - which bears the serial number 53130 - or the number and distribution of the type, saying only that it offers significantly longer range, endurance, and payload capacity than the previous GJ-1. They would also not disclose if the GJ-1 will eventually be phased out in favour of the newer and more capable air vehicles.

First unveiled at Airshow China 2016, the baseline Wing Loong II is developed and manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC): an AVIC subsidiary that is also responsible for building the PLAAF's J-20 next-generation multirole fighter. The UAV was first marketed in company literature at Airshow China 2015, although it was not until the 2016 exhibition that CAC debuted a "production-ready" version of the air vehicle along with an array of compatible UAV-launched weapons.

The Wing Loong II bears a strong resemblance to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' MQ-9 Reaper UAV as it features a low-wing monoplane slender fuselage and empennage with lifting surfaces that terminate in winglets, as well as a prominent V-tail and ventral fin. Like its US-made counterpart, each wing can incorporate up to three hardpoints for external stores.

However, the in-service GJ-2 shown at the PLAAF's static display appears to be different from the baseline air vehicle as it does not feature winglets and it was shown equipped with only two hardpoints under each wing.

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