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Is Pakistan in talks with China for the CH-4 armed drone?
October 17, 2017
An Iraqi CH-4 UAV armed with AR-1 air-to-ground missiles. Photo credit: Iraqi Ministry of Defence

Is Pakistan in talks with China for the CH-4 armed drone?

 

In a recent interview with China Daily, Shi Wen, who is the lead drone designer at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), shed light on what may be talks between China and Pakistan over the sale of CASC CH-4 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones.

CASC is a leading (if not the leading) Chinese firm involved in the development and production of UAVs, especially armed UAVs, an increasingly popular product segment among the world’s militaries, particularly those unable to access armed UAVs from the West. In fact, this is an area where the Chinese defence industry has taken a lucrative lead, especially in the Middle East.

The company’s product line centers on the Cai Hong (i.e. Rainbow), which secured its first export order in 2003-2004 when “a South Asian country” purchased a number of CH-1s. By the late 2000s and early 2010s, CASC succeeded in developing an exportable armed drone design in the form of the CH-3 and CH-3A. With the AR-1 laser-guided air-to-ground missile (AGM), the CH-3/CH-3A saw success in securing multiple sales. In fact, the Burraq armed UAV produced by NESCOM evidently draws its lineage from the CH-3A design.

Following the success of the CH-3 and CH-3A, CASC began exporting the much improved CH-4. Compared to the CH-3A, the CH-4 offers substantially improved range and payload (with the baseline CH-4A capable of carrying four AGMs in comparison to the CH-3A’s two). An evidently compelling package, the CH-4 saw export success in the Middle East, specifically with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), each of whom deployed the system into live operational theatres.

Shi Wen expects additional orders to come through once prospective buyers are able to pull through their difficult economic conditions. At present, Shi Wen claims that talks are underway with an existing South Asian customer for the CH-4. It is possible that the customer Shi Wen is referring to is Pakistan. Pakistan began deploying the Burraq as part of its COIN operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2013.

It would be an interesting acquisition, especially with CASC awaiting the release of an export license for the CH-5, which is not only its latest product, but also its largest and most capable design yet. The CH-5 boasts a wingspan of 21 metres, endurance of up to 30 hours, a cruising speed of 160-220km/h, and a range of up to 2000km (if linked to a satellite communication and navigation network). It is essentially CASC’s equivalent to the MQ-9 Reaper.

Assuming the country Shi Wen is referring to is in fact Pakistan and not Bangladesh, Myanmar or Sri Lanka, the purchase of the CH-5 may be a better route than the CH-4. Make no mistake, compared to the CH-3A, the CH-4 (especially CH-4B) would be a substantive improvement, but the cost of inducting a new platform may be better realized by inducting a much more capable system – i.e. the CH-5. With the CH-5, Pakistan could make use of its substantially heavier payload capacity by arming it with a higher number of munitions, such as laser-guided AGM, laser-guided rockets, and potentially even laser-guided bombs. Alternatively, Pakistan can utilize the UAV’s long endurance time for long-haul intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

It will be interesting to see if Pakistan will be able to utilize UAVs with satellite support. If Pakistan could pair its purported military-grade access to the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System with a proprietarily owned communications satellite, it could use long-range UAVs at beyond-line-of-sight. Granted, this may not have much utility within Pakistan’s borders (as it could freely host ground-control stations), but there may be some value of such an arrangement over Pakistan’s maritime theatre.

In any case, nothing is confirmed, this is mostly speculation on our part. We will have to wait a bit to see if Pakistan is indeed pursuing a new UAV type from China. If anything, we may see some substantive moves in that direction during IDEAS 2016, which is scheduled to take place in November.

  • jigsaww

    Pakistan needs to largely move and mix it’s low intensity ops from deployment of high end assets like F-16s and AH1s to these modern UCAVs. With emerging threats and CPEC completion, this will be crucial for 24/7 border and maritime surveillance with capabilities to engage and neutralise threats.

    This is the next logical step in warfare strategy.

    • MT

      ch5 from china sat navigation from china lgb missile from china sat com from china.

      it appears that pak ll bankrupt making nothing at home & importing everything from chinese engg to railway engine ;steel ,thermal plant,turbine

      technically Bangladesh produces more than PK

      • Shershahsuri

        well we buy from China. But your range is far wider. Russia, USA, France, Israel, etc.

        • jigsaww

          The only country capable of producing military grade UCAVs is either USA or China. Russia, France, and Israel have no considerable product. Hindustan is already using Israeli drones but they fall short of all requirements.

          USA won’t sell anything to hindustan until hindustan signs a range of agreements.

          These chinese drones are battle proven and being purchased by a number of countries. Pakistan will have them customised for its needs.

          Currently Pakistan has an edge over Hindustan in UAV and UCAV area. Pakistan has a very mature and well established UCAV industry. Eventually even if US does sell drones to Hindustan, it won’t create any capability gaps. Pakistani and these chinese UCAVs will more or less equate or outclass them.

          Any drones that Hindustan gets from US will not be stealth drones. The advantage Pakistan here has is that it will be able to deploy not just conventional but also stealth drones in coming years.

          Hindustan has no capability whether imported or domestic to match Pakistan in UCAV area.

          • MT

            lol… u believe that cheeni copy cat maal is inferior to israeli drones who are world leader in that field

          • jigsaww

            Leader according to who? Hindustani fan bois? Lol.

          • MT

            israel sells most hi tech dronda than cheen.

            They made their 1st stealth drone decade ago when cheen had no clue.

            They are decade ahead in every subsystem b it radar,synthetic aperture,control system

            sourceThe Predator drone itself has an Israeli pedigree, as some of the earliest designs came from an Israeli immigrant to the United States. Israel has taken the same capital, technology-intensive route to drone development as the United States, producing UAVs that fill key roles within a broader surveillance-strike complex.

          • Hindukush

            Since you are so much in love with the Zionist entity put your knee pads on and assume the position and pull up your Sari

          • MT

            That work is limited for pak as it begs free weapons from usa nd cheeni

            india pays fat cash so it need not plead

          • jigsaww

            Says a hindustani being largest beggar of world aid.

          • MT

            check last 2decades fig and read recorded press statement from pak and indian new paper

          • jigsaww

            Once a beggar, always a beggar.

          • MT

            true for pokistani

          • jigsaww

            but factually applicable to hindustan only.
            Bloody begging nation. On top of that lying about all of it as well.

          • MT

            google pak politicians statement & try to evn find 1 statement of indian politicians who plead for aid.

          • jigsaww

            Pakistani politicians have nothing to do with Pakistan. I don’t care a nickel worth what they say. They are anyway corrupt and Pakistan’s economic problems are owed to them. However Hindustan as a nation and adopted policy has been begging aid by showing ugly faces to the world. Fact. Google that.

          • MT

            indian govt don’t plead for aid.
            Ngo who get aid from west are pvt run organisations with discreet interest serving their white masters & sabotaging indian coal hydel nuclear plant while other ngo get money to convert poor hindus into Christianity

          • jigsaww

            You never run out of excuses.

            Hindustan is a beggar state that fakes GDP growth and uses aid funds to buy weaponry. Period.

          • MT

            That’s why Google treats pk as failed bankrupt beggar state

          • Vap

            Why this MT guy is always here? Don’t have a life loser?

          • Ashi Sidhu

            Fact is pakistanis are getting found in turkey germany refugee camps and getting deported back

          • jigsaww

            Big deal. Refugee crisis. Nothing ethical.

            A better enjoyable fact is hindustani students getting deported from US after being blacklisted for trying to get into US thru illegal universities. Trust me, i’ve seen what happens with hindustanis at the JFK. The kind of treatment they are given for being potential criminals and terrorists.

            And i don’t think i even need to remind you how hindustanis were getting treated in australia few years back, for being fraudsters, cheats, and disrupting the Australian society norms.

            I’d say you should get down praying because if Trump comes into gov by any chance, which looks like, you hindustanis will witness biggest hindustani deportation from US.

          • Hindukush

            If it wasn’t for illegal Indians half the gas stations in New Jersey would close

          • MT

            Indian own 50% of all motels in usa.
            They r ceo of top tech MNC

          • Mustafa O

            This modi toady is a paid raw agent. Its better to ignore his or her hindu views whuch r full of shit and no substance. Just like a typical hindu with small bone structure and stinky breed of kaali maata born as a result of mis fire during kama sutra trials in early days

          • jigsaww

            Israel’s defence industry is a subset of American defence industry.
            No amount of word twisting or honest pimping of yours will change that.
            Thank you.

          • Vap

            The same cheeni maal has been giving nightmares to India. They packed your ass in 1962 and they keep on doing that time and again. The presence of Indians on Pakistani defense forums is a clear indication that you guys are having trouble even with that Cheeni maal.

          • MT

            we come here to trash ur propaganda & expose cheen pak nexus on missile nuke proliferation

        • MT

          u buy evry thing frm cheen while india have inbuilt SAR Gps satellite and many satcom in place

          india has built the base technology while u all are still at nursery level

  • blabla

    @saqrkh
    What about writing some article on “Italian Navy Co-Hosts Event To Sell Vessels”. Why is Pakistan navy not interested in acquiring cheap used vessels from Italy “Lupo-class frigate” or “Maestrale-class frigate” “Lerici-class minehunter” ?

    • bla bla

      @jigsaww:disqus
      Some analysis on this update from you ?

      • jigsaww

        Do you mean on this article or about your comment?

        • bla bla

          Mostly on my comment why Pak Navy is not taking interest ? . What is the prespective of JH7s in future warfare specially for Navy and airforce ?

          • jigsaww

            I don’t think Lupo class is something for Pakistan Navy to pursue for considering the evolving threats it is going to face in coming years. These acquisitions are high end assets and are acquired for decades. You cannot induct old systems to fight off modern threats that Pakistan faces. Lupo is an old frigate design from 70’s and is already succeeded by better designs and systems onboard.

            The current western models are costing in excess of 500 million. I think the best choice for PN is the upgraded type054 frigate, which is now the most produced frigate in chinese navy. It provides a very decent 50 km air defence and can be extended up to 100 km with newer systems. That is the platform and design pakistan requires currently.

            PN will definitely require destroyer class ships in coming years in addition to more corvettes, frigates, and automated underwater hunters. I think we can see more deals announced by navy soon and as expected they will most likely be chinese.

          • jigsaww

            Pakistan has decided to deploy JF-17 in maritime role. There seems to be no chance of JH7 entering service in Pakistan. I think if ever another platform is inducted, it will be SU-35.

            I don’t see JH7 getting inducted in PAF. They’re focusing more on getting stand off weapons inducted launched from JF-17 or mirages for naval role.

  • Navid lahori

    Pakistan must concentrate further and come up with improved Versions of BURRAQ & SHEHPAR.Its time to drop the habbit of depending upon others for anything and everything.

  • Sami Shahid

    well there is nothing wrong in purchasing CH-4….should go for it…..its a good tool against terrorists in Afghanistan

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