Nation's drones are in demand

Updated: 2016-04-21 01:05

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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Foreign countries seek 'powerful, affordable' CH military series for reconnaissance, combat uses

Nation's drones are in demand

A number of foreign nations are awaiting delivery of China's CH series military drones, one of the country's most popular products on the international arms market.

The drone family, bearing the name Cai Hong, which means rainbow in Chinese, is considered by experts to be among the most lethal drones on the planet. The newest and largest capacity combat drone in the series, the CH-5, is awaiting government approval for export.

"The total value of contracts we signed in 2015 could definitely be one of the highest in terms of armed drone deals made last year on the international market," Shi Wen, chief drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing, told China Daily in an exclusive interview. He did not provide a figure.

The academy, part of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, is one of China's largest military drone developers. Its CH series drones have been sold to 20 military users from more than 10 foreign countries and are the largest military drone family that China has exported, Shi said.

The early models, CH-1 and CH-2, are small, unarmed reconnaissance craft that have a proven record in locating and monitoring targets. The larger ones — the CH-3 midrange combat and reconnaissance drone and CH-4 mid-altitude, high-endurance armed drone — immediately attracted buyers seeking a powerful, affordable unmanned combat aircraft.

"Our best-selling type so far is the CH-3, while the CH-4 has also received many orders," Shi said, adding that many more countries have expressed a "strong desire" to buy CH drones, but have yet to do so because of their sluggish economies.

Shi declined to disclose which countries have purchased the CH series, only revealing the academy's most valuable sale was worth "hundreds of millions of US dollars".

China Space News reported in January last year that Shi's academy would deliver about 200 CH drones to domestic and foreign users. Earlier reports by Western media cited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates as known buyers of CH drones.

The first contract to export CH drones was signed in 2003 and fulfilled in 2004, when a South Asian country bought several CH-1s, Shi said. Since then, the buyer has become a loyal user of CH series drones and is negotiating the purchase of some CH-4s, he said.

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