By Zhao Lei in Moscow
China is in talks with other countries on multiple cooperation projects concerning its Wing Loong unmanned combat drone family, according to a key figure at Aviation Industry Corp of China, the State-owned aircraft giant that makes the series.
Wang Yaoxin, vice-president of China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp, an AVIC subsidiary and the biggest exporter of aviation defense products in China, said in an interview on Tuesday that the Wing Loong I and II medium-altitude, long-endurance armed drones have become internationally renowned for their good capabilities and outstanding performance in combat and have attracted a lot of potential buyers.
"Currently, several international cooperation programs involving the drones are in the middle of talks," he said, without giving details about the programs due to business confidentiality.
Wang made the remarks at the six-day International Aviation and Space Salon 2019, which opened on Tuesday in Zhukovsky, about 40 kilometers from Moscow.
Having taken part in the biennial Russian air show for many years, China is the country partner for the event this year. It is the first time the Russian air show has invited a foreign nation to be a country partner.
Nearly 20 Chinese enterprises and universities are participating in the event, which has more than 800 exhibitors from about 40 countries.
Developed by AVIC's Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, Wing Loong I and II feature advanced designs, reasonable prices, easy-to-use controls and reliable technical support, the company says. They are capable of reconnaissance and surveillance, electronic jamming, targeted strikes and border patrols. In addition to military operations, they can also perform civilian tasks such as disaster monitoring, environmental inspections, resource surveys and meteorological research, according to Wang.
Information previously published by AVIC shows the development of Wing Loong I started in 2005 and its debut flight took place in 2007. At least 100 Wing Loong I units have been delivered to foreign users, the company said.
According to foreign media, the killer drone's users are mainly in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Wing Loong II, an upgraded model, has an optimized aerodynamic design, improved airframe, and upgraded airborne systems delivering better capabilities in terms of flight, payload and information capacity, AVIC said earlier.
As China's first drone to be propelled by a turboprop engine, Wing Loong II can remain in the air for 20 hours and has a maximum speed of 370 kilometers per hour. It is able to carry up to 12 laser-guided bombs or missiles with a combined weight of 480 kilograms.
According to AVIC, Wing Loong II has received at least one foreign contract and its value is very large. No details were disclosed.
Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the Wing Loong series must be attractive to many foreign militaries that have no combat drones.
"The Chinese drones sell well in the international market and perform well in battle, which wins them a good reputation. Moreover, they can be refitted to adopt foreign weapons, offering more options to users," he said.