Warplanes: The Chinese UAV Pipeline To Pakistan


December 14, 2013: On November 25th Pakistan announced that it had put the two locally made UAVs designs (Burraq and Shahpar) into service. Pakistan has used some foreign (mostly Chinese) made UAVs in the last decade, without much success. These two new models are means to give the Pakistani military something they can use on a regular basis. While the basic technology of recon UAVs is widely available, the ability to build and maintain reliable UAVs is another matter.

Burraq appears similar to the U.S. Army RQ-7B Shadow 200, a 1990s design that is still in use. The 470 kg (1,034 pound) Burraq has an endurance of 12 hours, while the smaller Shahpar can stay in the air 7 hours per sortie.

The Burraq can operate up to 250 kilometers from its base station and has a top speed of about 140 kilometers an hour. Burrag is very similar to the Chinese CH-3 and can carry a pair of Chinese missiles that are similar to the American Hellfire. Shahpar is similar to smaller UAVs developed in Pakistan for commercial and police markets.

In late 2012, Pakistan announced that it would obtain armed UAVs from China. Few other details were revealed at the time. Pakistan had been trying to develop armed UAVs for nearly a decade without success. China, however, indicated that it had several missiles, especially the Blue Arrow 7 and HJ-10 that are identical in size and performance to the American Hellfire and can be used from UAVs. China has also been offering a UAV of similar shape, weight, and performance as the U.S. Predator. Called CH-4, this UAV is similar in shape to the larger American MQ-9 Reaper, while its size is almost identical to the 1.2 ton Predator. CH-4 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. This UAV should be able to carry a pair of Blue Arrow 7 missiles. China began marketing the CH-4 in 2012.

China offers Chinese made weapons for the CH-4. Chief among these are a Hellfire clone, the AR-1. This is a 45 kg (99 pound) missile with a max range of 10 kilometers and a 10 kg (22 pound) warhead. AR-1 can be equipped with either GPS or laser guidance. The other weapon is a copy of the American SDB (small diameter bomb), which is a 128 kg (281 pound) GPS guided glide bomb in the shape of a missile with a penetrating warhead. The Chinese version is the FT-5 and is a 100 kg (220 pound) GPS guided bomb in the shape of a missile.

The Chinese versions are much cheaper (about half the price) than the American originals, and for that you get aircraft and missiles that have not had many of the bugs worked out nor achieved anything like the 15 year track record of the Predator. The CH-4 was developed from the earlier (2010) CH-3. This is a 640 kg aircraft with 12 hours endurance and can carry two AR-1 missiles. It looks a lot like Burraq.

China is believed to have offered Pakistan the CH-3 and CH-4 as well as weapons for them. Thus far there have been no confirmed export sales for the CH-4 but some of the technology may have been sold.

Since 2007 Pakistan has used several different types of UAVs along the Afghan and Indian borders. The most effective of these has been the Italian Falco, which Pakistan ordered in 2006. The air force completed evaluation of the Falco in 2008 and put at least four of them into service. Falco is a 420 kg (924 pound) aircraft with a 68.2 kg (150 pound) payload. Ceiling is 5,000 meters, but it usually operates at lower altitudes (2,000 meters). Endurance is up to 12 hours but typical missions are 6-8 hours. Max speed is 210 kilometers an hour, although it usually cruises at 150. Falco can be up to 200 kilometers from its ground station. The UAV can take off and land on an air strip or use a catapult for takeoff and parachute for takeoff and landing.

Pakistan has also been using several Chinese UAVs for the last decade or so. First,they got the ASN-105, a 140 kg (308 pound) aircraft with a payload of 40 kg (88 pounds) and endurance of only two hours. This is a 1980s era design and has since been replaced by the ASN-206/207. This is a 222 kg (488 pound) aircraft with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 207 model has a max endurance of eight hours but more common is an endurance of four hours. Max range from the control van is 150 kilometers away and cruising speed is about 180 kilometers an hour.

Pakistan is also developing its own UAVs. In 2008 it tested the Uqaab. This design looks very similar to commercial models. These are smaller (under 250 kg/550 pounds) UAVs for the government and commercial use that have been around since the late 1990s. The Uqaab also appears similar to the U.S. Army RQ-7B Shadow 200. More recently a Pakistani firm has produced the 470 kg (1,034 pound) Shahpar, which can stay in the air 7 hours per sortie. This model is very similar to the Chinese CH-3.

Pakistan requested Predators from the United States, but this was turned down because it was feared that the Chinese would be allowed to dissect the American UAV and acquire too many production secrets. Pakistan and China have been chummy for decades. No secrets between friends and all that. But European nations, like Italy and Germany, have been willing to sell Pakistan unarmed UAVs.

China has long been the principal supplier of military gear to Pakistan, and this often involves technology transfer deals that are kept very quiet. Partly that’s because much of the Chinese tech is stolen and the Chinese like to avoid using it too blatantly (to avoid diplomatic and legal backlash). Some of Pakistani UAV tech indicates Chinese origin.




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