Egypt inducts armed Chinese drones
The Egyptian Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it has taken the Chinese-built Chengdu Wing Loong unmanned air vehicle (UAV) into air force service, writes Jon Lake.
The aircraft was featured in a video broadcast on Egypt’s 45th Air Force Day on October 14, which was published on the ministry’s official social media pages.
The production included footage of a Wing Loong taking off from a desert air base, armed with what appeared to be a pair of Lán Jiàn-7 (Blue Arrow 7 or BA-7) laser-guided missiles on two of its four underwing hard-points.
The aircraft was shown attacking and destroying a ground target.
The video’s voiceover boasted: “The Egyptian military has been boosted with the latest global armament systems, including the multirole Rafale aircraft, F-16 fighter jets, Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters and China’s Wing Loong armed aircraft.”
The Wing Loong (also known as the Pterodactyl I or the Yìlóng-1) is similar in appearance to the US Reaper UAV with a V-tail, but has more in common with the original RQ-1 Predator. The Wing Loong is powered by a similar 100-hp ROTAX 914 piston engine, and can carry a 200-kg payload, including 50-kg Blue Arrow-7 laser-guided missiles or LS-6 guided bombs, or YZ-102A or YZ-212 bombs.
In 2016, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Egypt had requested the integration of a Model YJ-203 Ku-Band synthetic aperture and moving target indicator radar on its Wing Loong UAVs. This was required to allow the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and roadside mines, and to detect and track moving vehicles.
Wing Loong UAVs have already seen combat service with Egypt’s Task Force 777, operating against ‘Wilayet Sinai’, the local arm of so-called Islamic State (IS).
Wing Loongs were used to search for smuggling tunnels used by IS between Gaza and Sinai and, in March 2017, the Egyptian Air Force used them to launch a number of airstrikes against militants in north Sinai, in the cities of El Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid.
In November 2018, it was announced that Egypt would purchase 32 new Wing Loong 1D UAVs. The 1D variant has increased wingspan – up from 14 meters to 17.8 metres – with a higher maximum take-off weight, and with payload doubled to 400kg.
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