The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is marketed its growing portfolio of combat aircraft in Latin American by attending Feria Aeroespacial Mexico (FAMEX), which concluded on April 29.
The newly revealed Wing Loong II was also in attendance at FAMEX. The Wing Loong II is an update to the Chengdu Wing Loong, also known as the Pterodactyl-I. The Wing Loong II was revealed in November at Air Show China 2016 and had its first flight in February 2017.
The Wing Loong II can fly a top speed of 370 km/h. It has an endurance of 32 hours and service ceiling of 9,000 m. It can also carry a payload of 400 kg in both armaments (e.g. air-to-ground missiles) and/or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment (e.g. electro-optical and infrared sensor pods).
Chinese media outlets reported a large Wing Loong II sale at the end of last year, potentially to Saudi Arabia. In the absence of armed drone exports from the U.S., the Wing Loong II’s main competitors are Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) CH-4B. In the Middle East market, the Wing Loong II’s competition is from CASC and the CH-4B.
Notes & Comments:
Although Latin America has no shortage of cost-sensitive defence markets, China has yet to successfully land big-ticket contracts, especially for marquee products such as combat aircraft. However, armed UAVs would be a promising point-of-entry considering the dearth of equivalent U.S. and European alternatives. In fact, China has had substantive success in exporting its armed drones, generating committed users in several large markets, most notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Argentina’s on-and-off fighter acquisition plans may still be of interest to AVIC. Despite suspending plans for a new fighter (to replace its aging Lockheed Martin A-4AR), Argentina became a target of interest to the Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero for the L-159. Although talks fell through the first time, the JF-17B and JF-17 Block-III might provide AVIC and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) better grounding to offer the Thunder for Argentina’s long-term air warfare requirements.
In parallel to potential markets, Latin America may also emerge as one of China’s competitors. The region is home to Embraer, which is working to generate inroads for its airliners and, in time, transport and tanker the KC-390. AVIC’s commercial ambitions in this region may be hampered by these alternatives.