Wing-Loong Lethal UAS
Superficially somewhat similar to the United States’ MQ-9 Reaper made by General Atomics, the Pterodactyl-1 can carry 440 pounds combined of both weapons and reconnaissance gear, has a range of 2,500 miles and can remain aloft for 20 hours. The Wing-Loong UAS series were developed by Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China. Chengdu Aircraft Design & Research Institute (CADI), a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) in southwest China's Sichuan Province, has gained the world's attention with its Wing Loong Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The lineup of China's indigenously-developed Wing Loong UAS series, -- Wing Loong I, Wing Loong ID, and Wing Loong II -- with their carried payloads, made the public debut to the world at the 2016 China Airshow in November in south China' s Zh uhai. Since its kick-off in 2005, Wing Loong UAS program has been upgraded to the second generation in the past decade.
AVIC started exporting the domestically developed Wing Loong series in 2010, including the Wing Loong I, the Wing Loong I-D and the Wing Loong II. A total of 100 had been exported by the end of 2018, the Xinhua News Agency reported in December 2018.
The aircraft has been exported to Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia, among others. Serbia announced 10 September 2019 it would buy nine Chinese military drones. While Chinese civilian drones dominate the world market, this will be the first time Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles had been sold to a European country, and it might go as far as purchasing 15 more.
The arrival in Libya of Chinese-made Wing Loong drones in 2016 made a significant difference to the military capabilities of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). First used in the battle for Derna in eastern Libya, the drones had a decisive impact on the outcome as forces loyal to Haftar battled fighters from the Shura Council of Mujahideen in a brutal confrontation for the city.
These Chinese-made drones - operated by pilots from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and flown out of the Al Khadim airbase in the east - have a combat radius of 1,500km (932 miles), meaning they can deliver precision-guided missiles and bombs, striking anywhere in the country. These drones were used to great effect in the battle for Tripoli, which General Haftar announced in April 2019 against the GNA. Government forces were repeatedly pushed back into a tight pocket as the capital was besieged by the LNA. For all the talk of "precision" air strikes, the civilian casualty toll mounted as targets were hit in increasingly built-up urban areas.
Wing Loong I - Chengdu Pterosaur
Wing Loong I UAS has a length of 9 meters, height of 2.7 meters and wing span of 14 meters. Its maximum flight speed is 280 km per hour, with a maximum payload of 200 kg and endurance of about 20 hours. Wing Loong I has established a good reputation among customers at home and abroad since it hit the market. Wing Loong I UAS has gained orders from multiple countries and has been on active service for the Chinese People's Liberation Army(PLA). According to the US magazine Foreign Policy, Wing Loong I has been sold to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, for an estimated $1 million per unit.
According to CATIC, Wing Loong was developed independently by China with full intellectual property rights, meeting the requirements of the international market. The project was started in 2005 and the maiden flight took place in 2007. The 49th Paris - Le Bourget International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Paris Air Show), one of the most reputable air shows in the world, concluded on 26 June 2011. One of the show’s highlights was the latest model Wing-Loong, a Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), exhibited at the AVIC & CATIC booth. The Wing Loong is designed for reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures (ECM), and light ground attack missions. Another Executive Vice President of AVIC, Mr. Li Yuhai, said the Wing Loong, which is a middle and high end UAV, will be perfected in practice. “Through this model, AVIC shall show global customers its capability in the field of UAVs.”
The Wing Loong I UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) was developed as an integrated multipurpose UAS for medium-altitude flying and HALE reconnaissance and combat by Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI) and AVIC in response to international market demands. Wing Loong I UAS consists of 4 UAVs, one set of a ground control station, one set of an integrated logistic support system and one set of mission payload.
Some of the features of the Wing Loong I UAS include fully autonomic takeoff and landing capabilities, cruise flight, air-ground coordination and ground relay control. As a critical sub-system with multi-redundancy or backup configuration, it is equipped with an encrypted data link, user-friendly computer interface, all-round integrated logistic support system, loadable mature photoelectric detection equipment, electronic surveillance device and small scale space precision attack weapons, which enable long flight and ensure mission completions under complex environmental conditions.
Wing Loong I UAS is capable of many operations such as battlefield intelligence acquisition line by line; surveillance and reconnaissance; timely fighting against small agile targets; electronic surveillance and executions for interference missions; anti-terrorism/riot monitoring missions; timely attacks or non-fatal deterrence; border patrol; anti-narcotics, anti-smuggling and other security tasks; complete resource surveys; pipeline patrol; disaster surveillance and evaluation; as well as other civilian missions.
Wing Loong I - Chengdu Pterodactyl
The second member of Wing Loong series is distinguished from the earlier Pterosaur I in that there is a bulge at the nose tip of the fuselage to house a satellite antenna. This is the version most widely publicized and actively marketed as a surveillance platform. United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan were reported to be the first two foreign customers of Pterodactyl I.
Wing Loong I - Sky Saker
Sky Saker is a derivative of Wing Loong developed by Norinco mainly intended for export. The Chinese name is Rui Ying, meaning Sharp Eagle, but the English name adopted by the developer is Sky Saker [a saker (Falco cherrug) is a large species of falcon, a grayish-brown Old World falcon]. Sky Saker / Rui Ying carries both a miniature synthetic aperture radar and an electro-optical pod to perform reconnaissance in both the visible light and radar spectra. The capability of Sky Saker / Rui Ying has been exaggerated by many Chinese internet sources claiming that it has both scout and strike capabilities at the same time, but this has been proven to the contrary. According to all info released by Norinco itself (as of 2015), the UAV can employ only a single capability at a time: when the UAV carries the reconnaissance payload, no weaponry is carried. Similarly, when weaponry is carried, the reconnaissance payload is absent.
Wing Loong I - WJ-1
The WJ-1 was the first land attack version of Pterodactyl I, which is a weapon platform without the reconnaissance/targeting pod under the chin. The designation WJ stands for Wu-Zhuang Wu-Ren-Ji, meaning armed UAV. WJ-1 UAV made its public debut in November 2014 at the 10th Zhuhai Airshow along with its cousin GJ-1.
Wing Loong I - GJ-1
The GJ-1 is a land attack variant of Pterodactyl I that combines the capabilities of the Pterodactyl I and WJ-1 so that it can both identify and engage targets. GJ-1 can be distinguished from both Pterodactyl I and WJ-1 in that GJ-1 has both the reconnaissance/targeting pod under the chin as well as hardpoints to carry weapons. The designation GJ stands for Gong-Ji Wu-Ren-Ji, meaning "attack UAV." GJ-1 UAV made its public debut in November 2014 at the 10th Zhuhai Airshow along with its cousin WJ-1.
China's first all-composite multi-purpose drone, the "Wing Loong" ID, successfully flew for the first time in 2018. This UAV is the previous generation of the Wing Loong 1-E, equipped with a high-definition electro-optical pod (EO) and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) , which can be equipped with communication reconnaissance or electronic reconnaissance equipment. In addition, this drone has 4 external hardpoints, which can mount more than 10 types of laser-guided or satellite-guided precision strike weapons.
In terms of applications, this drone can be used for intelligence acquisition, surveillance, reconnaissance, anti-terrorism, border patrol, anti-drug and anti-smuggling, etc.; applications in the civilian field include: land and resources survey, pipeline network patrol, disaster monitoring and assessment, etc.
The Wing Loong-1E on 18 January 2022 successfully completed its first flight, marking the birth of yet another addition to the Wing Loong drone family, made of all-composite materials. Compared with its predecessor, the new drone received comprehensive optimization and upgrades to its performance, AVIC said, but did not give more details about the aircraft's performance specifications. It made some changes to aerodynamic design, including adding upward-pointing winglets to the tip of the main wings like a Wing Loong-2.
"The Wing Loong-1E UAV development team is pioneering and innovative, tenacious and hardworking. It is a capable, resilient, and victorious UAV development team. AVIC UAV Company gives full play to the advantages of R&D and manufacturing integration. The development of the Wing Loong-1E has been efficiently realized. The success of the first flight has laid a good foundation for the development of the follow-up market." stated Tang Yong, chief engineer of the Wing Loong-1E model.
The Wing Loong-2 is a high-end product of integrated reconnaissance and strike UAV. The power unit is a turboprop engine. The purchase price and use cost are relatively high, and there are also high requirements for logistics support. In this way, the scope of application of UAVs is limited. Even the U.S. military, only the U.S. Air Force is equipped with a large number of MQ-9 UAVs, and the U.S. Army still uses MQ-1C UAVs. In terms of domestic drones, the Chinese Air Force has replaced the Attack-1 with the Attack-2, and foreign customers have also introduced a large number of Wing Loong-2. However, many customers continue to purchase drones such as the CH-4 because they have comprehensively considered factors such as price, cost and logistical support. In this case, Chengfei decided to improve and upgrade the Wing Loong-1 to improve its competitiveness.
Since the Wing Loong-1E benchmarked against the MQ-1C, the outside world believed that its engine should be improved, replacing the original ROTAX 914F with a new engine. The latter uses aviation kerosene, and there is no problem in the use of air force equipment, but the army vehicles use diesel fuel, and there are obstacles in logistical support. The MQ-1C replaced the TORAX914F with a German Tillert 1.7-liter diesel engine, which increased power from 115 to 165 hp. Since Tillert has been acquired by China Aviation Industry in 2013, there is no problem in replacing the same engine with the Wing Loong-1E. In addition, domestic private aviation engine companies have also launched similar products, such as domestic Chery Automobile subsidiary - Hangrui Power The Lark 115KW diesel engine developed has been installed on the domestic unmanned helicopter. From these perspectives, there is not much problem with the replacement of the diesel engine of the Wing Loong-1E.
According to relevant information, with the same size, the Wing Loong-1 weighs about 80 kg more than the MQ-1, and the load is 40 kg less. The maximum take-off weight of UAVs of this size is generally about 1000 kg and the load is 200 kg, so the impact is still relatively large. For this reason, the pterosaur-1E is made of all-composite materials. Compared with traditional aluminum alloys, the composite materials are not only light in weight, but also can be integrally formed during the manufacturing process. It is produced by hand stacking process using carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg, and saves a lot of structural fixings and fuselage frame, further reducing the structural weight. The outside world believes that the Wing Loong-1E should use the advantages of composite materials to redesign the interior of the fuselage, expand the fuel volume, and improve the range and endurance.
The Wing Loong-1E UAV avionics system has also undergone a new upgrade, using a fiber-based integrated avionics system. The system has stronger information processing and transmission capabilities, and can also be networked with the ground through high-speed broadband data links to achieve information sharing. UAVs can mount photoelectric pods, synthetic aperture radars, electronic reconnaissance and other detection equipment, obtain ground target images and other information, and then transmit them to the ground command station.
Through these measures, the performance of the Wing Loong-1E UAV has been effectively improved. The maximum take-off weight is increased to 1600 kg, and the maximum load is increased to 400 kg, of which the weapon load is 300 kg, which can mount more and heavier weapons. For this reason, the wing pylons are increased to 4, which can be mounted. 4 blue Arrow-7 airborne anti-tank missiles. The maximum ceiling is close to 8,000 meters, which has exceeded the firing height of most portable air defense missiles, improving the survivability of the UAV on the battlefield. The battery life has been increased to 35 hours, and it can operate in a theater for a long time, and a single drone unit can cover a larger battlefield or conduct closer monitoring of the target.
The Army has selected the UAV of Zhongtian Feilong Company, so the Wing Loong-1E reconnaissance and strike integrated UAV is mainly aimed at the international market. Due to the excellent performance of the drone and the low price, it was believed that there will be a good harvest in the international market.
Wing Loong II
Chinese arms firms have been active providers of military-use drones in the international market, as CH series and Wing Loong series drones can often be seen in the Middle East and Africa. As of December 2018, 100 Wing Loong drones had been delivered to foreign clients. Chinese weapons and equipment are well known on the international market not only because of their high efficiency and low cost, but also good after-sales services and logistics support, observers said, noting that China does not attach political conditions to arms sales, unlike some countries such as the US.
|Wing-Loong I||Wing-Loong II||MQ-9 Reaper|
|Aircraft altitude||2.8 m|
|Wingspan||14 m||67 feet (20.5 meters)||66 feet (20.1 meters)|
|Maximum takeoff weight||1150 kg||9,260 pounds (4,200 kg)||10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms)|
|Maximum altitude||7500 m||29,527 feet||50,000 feet (15,240 meters)|
|Maximum speed||280 km/h|
|Maximum endurance||20 h||20 hours|
|Normal takeoff distance||=800 m|
|Landing roll||=800 m|
|Maximum task load||200 kg||1,058 pounds (480 kg)||3,750 pounds (1,700 kilograms)|
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