China developing armed drones; eyes Pak for sales

Pakistan has said it plans to obtain armed drones from China, according to a news daily.

Last Updated: Jul 07, 2011, 23:31 PM IST

Washington: China has ramped up its
research in drone technology and is in the process of building
armed, jet-propelled unmanned planes, which it plans to sell
to countries like Pakistan.

Though much of this work remains secret, the large
number of drones at recent exhibitions underlines not only
China`s determination to catch up in that sector by building
equivalents to the leading US combat and surveillance models,
the Predator and the Global Hawk - but also that its desire to
sell this technology abroad, a media report has said.

"No country has ramped up its research in recent years
faster than China. It displayed a drone model for the first
time at the Zhuhai air show five years ago, but now every
major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research
center devoted to drones," the Washington Post daily recently
said quoting Chinese analysts.

Not only the Chinese are trying to make state of the
art armed drones, they are also eyeing the international
market.

"The United States doesn`t export many attack drones,
so we`re taking advantage of that hole in the market," said
Zhang Qiaoliang, a representative of the Chengdu Aircraft
Design and Research Institute, which manufactures many of the
most advanced military aircraft for the People`s Liberation
Army.

"The main reason is the amazing demand in the market
for drones after 9/11."

According to the daily, Pakistan has said it plans to
obtain armed drones from China, which has already sold the
nation one for surveillance.

As per Aviation Industry Corp of China, it has begun
offering international customers a combat and surveillance
drone comparable to the Predator called the Yilong, or
"pterodactyl" in English.

Zhang, of the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research
Institute, said the company anticipates sales in Pakistan, the
Middle East and Africa.

However, he and others displaying drones at a recent
Beijing anti-terrorism convention played down the threat of
increasing Chinese drone technology, the daily said.

"I don`t think China`s drone technology has reached
the world`s first-class level," said Wu Zilei, from the China
Shipbuilding Industry Corp, echoing an almost constant
refrain.

"The reconnaissance drones are okay, but the attack
drones are still years behind the United States".

However, the daily quoted Richard Fisher, a senior
fellow at the Washington-based International Assessment and
Strategy Center, who said such statements are routine and
intended to deflect concern about the nation`s expanding
military ambitions.

"The Chinese are catching up quickly. This is
something we know for sure," Fisher said. "We should not take
comfort in some perceived lags in sensors or satellites
capabilities. Those are just a matter of time."

PTI