Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s new drone from China

Cheap Chinese weapon flood Pakistani market

Last week when India signed off  $5bn deal of  S-400 with Russia, Pakistan followed by announcing the purchase of 48 advanced armed drones “The Wing Loong II” from China. Pakistan acquiring the drones was announced by its air force’s Sherdils Aerobatic Team on its official Facebook page.  Although details of delivery and deal price are not clear,  once again there are conflicting views emerging from Pakistan on the procurement of Chinese pieces of equipment which have mostly not been tested so far.  Pakistan has indeed become a testbed for Chinese weapons. 

While Twitterati mocked Pakistan for purchasing practice targets for Indian AD weapon system with these new birdies in the sky,  Pakistan raved about its military empowerment through Chinese assistance.

More about Wing Loong II

The Wing Loong II falls under the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, and it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company.  Having a length of 11 m and a wingspan of 20.5 m, the Wing Loong II can carry bombs and air-to-surface missiles. It can carry 480 kg of munitions. It can fly for around 20 hours and has a maximum speed of 370 km per hour. It is also integrated with day and infrared cameras and sensors to collect surveillance and targeting data.

Reports published in The diplomat suggests that although Wing Loong II closely resembles the MQ-9 Reaper,  its capabilities are not on par with the MQ-9.  It has been reported that the Wing Loong UAV series (along with other Chinese combat drones) have much weaker engines than either the U.S.-made Predator or Reaper resulting in more limited range and speed in comparison to U.S. models.  Chinese drones also lack in detection capabilities and overall endurance when compared to Western models.

According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), from rifles to aircraft and warships; China has become the dominant supplier of weapons to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Around 35% of China’s arms supplies went to Pakistan between 2013 and 2017, followed by 19% to Bangladesh. Dhaka procured 71% of its arms from China over the five-year period, and Myanmar 68%. With the decline in US military aid, Pakistan’s arms imports from China rose from 45% of its total weapons imports in 2008-12 to 70% in 2013-17.

Chinese weaponry now the mainstay of Pakistan Army

China has become the world’s third largest weapons exporters with Pakistan emerging as the top recipient of its arms at 63%. China made equipment and weaponry jointly developed and manufactured by China and Pakistan are now the main sources of ground equipment in the Pakistani military.

As per reliable sources, it is revealed that Pakistan had recently ordered new weaponry including snipers & over 2000 ground-based launchers from China. These are now being used by Pakistan’s notorious Border Action Team

The Arms Pipeline:

Pakistan Army to Kashmir

It is a known fact that much of this weaponry reaches Kashmir from the arms bazaar in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province a vast black market for weapons, Inter-Services Intelligence and other quasi-official sources.

The Chinese connection

Inquiry reports by security, intelligence agencies into CRPF camp attack in Lethpora on 31st Dec 17, have revealed startling facts. It is now ascertained that Pakistani terrorists are using Chinese steel bullets to target Indian forces in J&K. The bulletproof jackets used by the CRPF jawans were fit to repel bullets having copper head. However, JeM terrorists used bullets made up of steel which forensic reports suggest is being supplied to Pakistani ordinance factories by China.

Pakistan bleeding but Chinese interests in Pakistan succeeding

As previously covered by Viewpoint, China & Pakistan are very similar on an array of political and economic issues that make them natural partners as they both seek to enhance their regional influence and protect their strategic interests. Firstly, they are united in their distrust of India’s strategic intentions and growing power. Seeking to challenge US hegemony across various areas and with enough heft to keep India unbalanced, either directly or through Pakistan.

Secondly, China is close (has succeeded) to supplanting the US as the major supplier of military equipment to Pakistan.

China also casts covetous eyes on Pakistan’s fine saltwater ports as a strategic option for the transshipment of oil and other natural resources. To this end, China is investing heavily in Pakistan’s transportation and communication infrastructure development.

But why are Chinese Weapons not bought by Developed Nations?

Despite this attention, China still faces a number of hurdles in the global defence trade industry and have not been able to make serious inroads. Why is their customer base so small and so focused on just a handful of systems? Following are a few of the reasons for the same:

  • Lack of political trust
  • The poor quality of Chinese products which have formed a very poor impression of Chinese made products.
  • Malfunctioning systems
  • Defective weapon designs
  • Lack of extra services, such as training and the maintenance of equipment and arms.

Therefore, despite the low cost, the Chinese defense industry has been unable to make a mark in the international armaments industry.

As per reports, in September last year, Chinese exhibitors apparently struggled to find buyers at an air show in South Africa even as officials in Beijing aggressively tried to secure deals for the JF-17 fighter. Nigeria is currently the only African country with JF-17s on order.

Malfunctioning of Chinese weapons caused fatal injuries and caused embarrassment

Malfunctioning of Chinese weapons has been a very public issue. When the UK purchased four brand new Chinese attack helicopters, one of them crashed shortly after delivery, causing an apparent freeze in new acquisitions. Similarly, during an Indonesian Navy exercise on 14 Sept 2016, two Chinese made C-705 missiles failed to hit their targets after launching from two KCR-40 attack ships. This was a particularly embarrassing setback for the Chinese as the Indonesian President Joko Widodo personally witnessed it.

Chinese weapon a big hit with the gunslingers: Chinese weapons have indeed become popular with warlords, rebel groups and militias around the world given the absence of competing arms dealers. Chinese anti-aircraft missiles have been spotted in the hands of South Sudanese government troops loyal to President Salva Kiir, while Khartoum-backed rebels answering to Riek Machar have also acquired brand new Chinese-made weapons. China’s arms exports to Africa have coincided with a surge of investment by Chinese companies hoping to capitalize on the continent’s bountiful natural resources, as well as a steady buildup of Beijing’s own forces.

Conclusion

Beijing is building new ships, aircraft, drones and tanks; which are actually foreign designs that state companies have licensed, stolen, or reverse-engineered. (Eg. The Changhe Z-8 helicopter – French Super Frelon, The Harbin Z-9 – Eurocopter Dauphin, The Type 99 tank – updated Soviet T-72). Since very little is known about China’s homemade weaponry no one knows if any of it actually works. Pakistan should, therefore, stop becoming a test bed for China mercilessly draining taxpayers money on humungous defense purchases when it is reeling under debt from all quarters.

On a lighter note,  all this while standing in front of IMF with a bowl. It’s a funny pride for Pakistan. Pakistan has sold Buffaloes & Cars to pay external debt and resorted to stealing lamps and bathroom taps. Wonder how is Pakistan going to pay for these drones to the Chinese. What are they going to sell next?

Also, China as a responsible nation should refrain from cheap arms sales to the warlords and improve upon their designs in order to reach the global market.

17 Oct 2018/Wednesday                                                   Written by  Afsana