Saudi Arabia will license-produce Chinese armed drones
December 6, 2023
An Iraqi CH-4 UAV armed with AR-1 air-to-ground missiles. Photo credit: Iraqi Ministry of Defence

Saudi Arabia will license-produce Chinese armed drones

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and China Aerospace Science Technology Corporation (CASC) signed an agreement to manufacture unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in Saudi Arabia, IHS Jane’s reports.

Specific details of this agreement are not available.

During the 2017 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), which took place in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February, Taqnia Aeronautics Company had signed an agreement with China Aerospace Long-March International (ALIT) to manufacture CH-series UAVs in Saudi Arabia.

Notes & Comments:

It is not clear if the two agreements are related, but Taqnia and KACST have collaborated on scientific and technological projects for Saudi use. This extending to CH-series drones is plausible.

Considering CASC and ALIT produce and market the CH-series, respectively, it is unclear if the sale large UAV sale announced by Chinese media in February involves the Wing Loong II, as observers had previously believed. The ‘largest order’ appears to have gone to CASC (from Saudi Arabia).

While both are Chinese, CASC and CAIG are competitors in the armed UAV space.

The CASC CH-4B and CAIG Wing Loong II have similar specifications, especially in terms of payload and endurance (Wing Loong II: 400 kg and 32 hours vs. CH-4B: 345 kg and 40 hours). Both UAV platforms can deploy China’s range of air-to-surface munitions, such as the AR-1 laser-guided missile.

Saudi Arabia is a confirmed CH-4B operator and apparent Wing Loong user. While one cannot dismiss the possibility of acquiring both the CH-4B and Wing Loong II in large numbers, the licensed manufacturing aspect of the CASC/ALIT deal indicates that most of these drones will be of the CH-series.