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China Breaks A UAV Record
by James Dunnigan
August 20, 2014

hina announced that a civilian UAV, used for mapping and land use surveys, recently stayed in the air for 30 hours, setting a record for Chinese UAVs. The previous record for Chinese UAVs was 16 hours.  This long endurance UAV was developed by a government agency (CASM, or Chinese Academy of Surveying & Mapping) and has limited military use. CASM has developed several small UAVs for survey duties. These UAVs all feature lightweight materials and tend to be under 50 kg (110 pounds) with small payloads (usually 5 kg/11 pounds). These take advantage of new lightweight and powerful cameras to economically monitor Chinese farming and natural resources. Some of these UAVs are also believed to be used by the police and security services.   

For several decades a growing number of Chinese commercial firms have been developing military UAVs. One of the most powerful of these is the Wing Loong (that's Chinese for Pterodactyl, a Jurassic period flying dinosaur) UAV which can be equipped to carry two BA-7 laser guided missiles (similar to the Hellfire) or two 60 kg (110 pound) GPS guided bombs (similar to the U.S. SDB). This large UAV has been around for a while. Since 2008 Chinese aircraft manufacturer (AVIC) has been showing off photos and videos of a prototype for a clone of the American MQ-1 Predator UAV that tuned out to be Wing Loong. In 2012 one was first seen in flight, over the capital of Uzbekistan, which, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) were the first export customers. It was later revealed that development on Wing Loong began in 2005, first flight was in 2007 and Chinese troops got the first ones in 2008 for further testing.

While Wing Loong is similar in shape to the larger American MQ-9 Reaper, in size it's almost identical to the 1.2 ton Predator. Wing Loong weighs 1.1 tons, has a 14 meter (46 feet) wingspan, and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. It has max altitude of 5,300 meters (16,400 feet) and an endurance of over 20 hours. Payload is 200 kg.

Promotional pictures of the Wing Loong frequently show it carrying two Blue Arrow (BA) 7 missiles. Since 2012 China has offered this air-to-surface missile for export. BA-7 is very similar to the American Hellfire. Each Blue Arrow 7 weighs 47 kg (103 pounds) and is basically a laser guided anti-tank missile with a max range of 7,000 meters. China offers the Blue Arrow 7 at a lower (at least a third lower) price than the $70,000 Hellfire and is willing to negotiate. The Blue Arrow 7 is priced to sell.

The AGM-114 (Hellfire II) missile uses either an armor-piercing or blast/fragmentation (for use against non-armored targets and bunkers) warhead. The ones fired from UAVs usually have the blast warhead. The Hellfire II weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters. The Hellfire has been in service for three decades.

Saudi Arabia and at least one other Persian Gulf Arab state is believed to have ordered Wing Loong and others may be negotiating.

 


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