In a first direct competition between Chinese and United States military products, the former’s Wing Loong II drone will be competing against the United States’ MQ-9 Predator B in a potential tender for UAVs in Malaysia.
The Wing Loong II put up a flying and static display while the MQ-9 was only on static display at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition that concluded last week in the Malaysian resort Island.
“We are addressing Malaysia’s strategic environment as a maritime nation. We are talking a medium-altitude long-endurance [MALE] UAV based on the new Royal Malasian Air Force (RMAF) CAP55 roadmap released in 2018,” RMAF Chief General Tan Sri Affendi Buang said in an interview ahead of the LIMA 2019 exhibition that concluded last week.
All eyes are now on the Malaysian defence white paper that is expected to be released before the end of the year which may unlock UAV and other procurement plans.
The Wing Loong shares more than a striking resemblance with General Atomic’ Predator/Reaper series of drones leading to cries of copycat in the Western Media. But this has not deterred countries such as Pakistan and some Middle East nations from ordering over 100 of such drones which reportedly cost a third that of US-made advanced drones.
While the Predator, made by General Atomics was not allowed for export until recently, competition from China has made the Trump administration loosen up some of the export control surrounding drone technology allowing its export to nations outside of NATO and close allies such as Israel and Japan.
However, that has not helped increase US drone sales. US –based ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine reported in December 2018, “more than six months after the Trump administration rolled out a new set of regulations promising to make it easier to sell American-made military drones abroad, no new sales have been made, and drone-makers are frustrated by the lack of concrete results.”
A 2017 Rand Corp. study concluded that previous administrations’ restrictive regulations on shipping armed and unarmed drones to foreign customers has left U.S. manufacturers at a disadvantage, effectively ceding the market to China.
A day after the Wing Loong made impressive flying dispay at LIMA, China state-owned media revealed data that the Wing Loong series of drones have fired more than 3,000 rounds of live munitions hitting both stationary and moving battlefield targets, according to China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
"Higher than 90 percent should be considered very high accuracy when you have 3,000 samples, especially on real battlefields, not just training grounds," a Beijing-based military expert was quoted by the Global Times on March 31.
Developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), Wing Loong is an armed reconnaissance drone besides capable of surveillance operations for extended hours over vast regions. It is often likened to the US' MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones.