[Strategic Intel] China likely sold Pakistan a large combat drone

Satellite images indicate that a new, large combat drone acquired by the Pakistan military came from the Chinese.

The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College spotted infrastructure for a combat drone — a hangar — at the Pakistan Air Force Base M.M. Alam in Mianwali in November, via satellite image.

In January, the center noted the drone was likely Chinese-made.

“The drone in the image appears to be a Wing Loong I. This assessment is based on its wingspan—which we believe to be around 14 meters— and its V-tail, as well as a comparison with other satellite images of the Wing Loong I elsewhere in the world,” the Center noted in its report.

A British defense publication, INS Jane’s, confirmed the center’s findings from different satellite images taken around the same time.

The Wing Loong I is a strike-capable medium-altitude long-endurance drone built by the Chinese firm Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It has a length of nine meters and a wingspan of fourteen meters. It can fly at heights of nearly 25,000 feet with a maximum speed of around 280 km/h and a range of 5,000 kilometers. According to IHS Jane’s, it has a maximum take-off weight of 1,150 kilograms with a maximum payload capacity of 200 kg. The payload is split fifty-fifty between internal and external weapon stores. It is considered to be China’s version of America’s Predator drone.

The drone is likely undergoing testing. Pakistan was testing a similar drone in late 2016 at the same airbase but it crashed. [source]

“Pakistan has long expressed an interest in acquiring highly capable drones,” the report said, noting that Pakistan has produced a mid-size surveillance drone with an Italian company. [source]

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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