China is rapidly carving out a strong position for itself in the international weapons trade with a new combat drone.
China “is the largest exporter of military drones today, and it is ready to place a new model on the international market,” reports the China Daily.
The TYW-1 is an unmanned system for surveillance and combat based on the BZK-005, which is widely used by China’s People’s Liberation Army. The drone will make its maiden flight in September and be placed on the market next year, Wang Jianping, deputy general manager and chief designer at Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology, revealed.
“We aim to tap the markets in neighboring nations, as well as in Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” Wang told the China Daily. He stated that the drone could also be used to patrol China’s “territorial waters,” indicating possible deployment in the East and South China Sea.
Chinese drones are active in a number of different combat zones, especially the Middle East. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, a leading Chinese drone developer, produces the CH-4, a reconnaissance and combat drone used in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. China has sold its CH series drones to more than ten countries. Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute developed the Wing Loong, which has been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
CASC is preparing to open a drone factory in Saudi Arabia. Chinese drones have reportedly been used in Yemen and against the Islamic State.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, China’s largest missile producer, is developing a long-range, fast-attack stealth combat drone to evade radar and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as a near-space drone. CASIC is also the producer of the high-speed WJ series drones, which resemble cruise missiles.
CASC showed off its new CH-5 drone last year, and the Wing Loong II completed its maiden flight in February. Both products are expected to eventually be put on the market for export.
“As military reforms are drastically changing armed forces around the world, drones have become an indispensable weapon in modern warfare because they can play an important role in high-resolution reconnaissance, long-distance precision strikes, anti-submarine operations and aerial combat,” asserts Wei Yiyin, deputy general manager of CASIC.
Despite Chinese claims that their drones are on par with U.S. weapons systems, the U.S. is still an undisputed leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, but the U.S. limits its drone exports to key allies. In some cases, even close allies are prohibited from buying American combat drones.
U.S. regulations and restrictions on drone exports have created new opportunities for China, which is eager to raise its profile in the global arms trade. Chinese drones are less expensive than U.S. products and come without additional requirements. The Chinese drones are inferior to most U.S. drones, but they get the job done.
As China’s footprint grows in the international combat drone market, China may soon be able to start moving other advanced arms, such as its stealth fighter, the FC-31, which China argues rivals the F-35. By boosting its presence in the global arms trade, China may secure major defense contracts which could increase China’s international influence, potentially allowing China to expand its interests.
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