ISLAMABAD – Pakistan China rising military ties have been a matter of concern for foreign players in recent days.
Sometimes rumours regarding military bases of China in Pakistan, which Islamabad has shunned repeatedly are floated, or sometimes it is claimed that Shapar and the Burraq – Pakistan made unarmed aerial vehicle – have been provided by Beijing, casting doubt on Pakistan’s ability to indigenously produce armed drones .
This time another claim has surfaced that China appears to have secretly sold Pakistan a large multi-role combat drone that can allow Pakistan to carry out longer and more complex missions.
The claim was made after the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College <link>, citing satellite images from November 2017, said that a medium-altitude long-endurance drone has been spotted at the Alam Air Base in Mianwali, Pakistan.
In a report published on Jan 5 by the Center, “The drone in the image appears to be a Wing Loong I. This assessment is based on its wingspan—which we believe to be around 14 meters— and its V-tail, as well as a comparison with other satellite images of the Wing Loong I elsewhere in the world. No drones or supporting equipment are visible in earlier satellite images of the base, suggesting that this drone may have arrived at Alam Air Base sometime in late November”.
The Center said that drone might have been deployed in Pakistan for test purposes, not an operational airframe. It adds, “This would not be the first time that a Wing Loong prototype has been sent to Mianwali; a drone that appeared to be a Wing Loong I crashed during an experimental test flight near Mianwali in June 2016”.
The acquisition of a heavier multi-role drone like the Wing Loong I would allow Pakistan to carry out longer and more complex missions than it can with its current fleet of unmanned systems.
However, there is no official statement from Pakistani authorities regarding the fresh claims.
Pakistan military in 2013, announced that it had developed a indigenous mid-sized surveillance drone – Shahpar, which entered into service during the same year, In 2015, Pakistan also unveiled Burraq, a mid-sized strike-capable drone. The world players at that time also claimed that the drones are Chinese UAVs or developed on Chinese technology.