CAIG Wing Loong
|Manufacturer||Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group|
|Designer||Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute|
|Primary users||People's Liberation Army Air Force|
Royal Saudi Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
United Arab Emirates Air Force
The Chengdu Pterodactyl I (Chinese: 翼龙-1; pinyin: Yìlóng-1), also known as Wing Loong, is a Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group in the People's Republic of China. Intended for use as a surveillance and aerial reconnaissance platform, the Pterodactyl I is capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons for use in an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) role. Based on official marketing material released by CADI, the Pterodactyl can carry the BA-7 air-to-ground missile, YZ-212 laser-guided bomb, YZ-102A anti-personnel bomb and 50-kilogram LS-6 miniature guided bomb.
Design and development
Designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), a division of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the Pterodactyl I bears a distinct similarity in appearance to the Predator/Reaper family of drones developed by the United States. The drone is capable of being fitted with a variety of sensors, including a forward looking infrared turret and synthetic aperture radar. In addition, the aircraft is capable of carrying weapons. The Pterodactyl I's total payload capacity for sensors and weapons is 200 kilograms (440 lb).
According to Chengdu, the Pterodactyl I has been undergoing flight testing and has proven successful, with the flight test program including weapons tests of both bombs and air-to-surface missiles.
A model of the Pterodactyl I was displayed at the 2010 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition at Zhuhai, the first public acknowledgment of the program; however, it was claimed by AVIC that the aircraft had been displayed at the 2008 airshow. The aircraft has been approved for export by Chinese authorities; the Pterodactyl I was evaluated by Pakistan, but was not selected for procurement.
One example of the type was known to have been lost in an accident during 2011.
Since 2011, China has also sold the Wing Loong to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, at an estimated $1 million per unit.
In March 2017, the Egyptian Air Force launched a number of airstrikes in North Sinai’s cities of El Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid, as part of the operations conducted by the Egyptian Armed Forces against militants. Most of the strikes, which targeted stationing points and moving vehicles, were carried out by Wing Loong UCAVs leaving 18 militants killed.
A total of six variants of Wing Loong have been identified and they are:
- Pterosaur I: First member of Wing Loong series, with program of Wing Loong begun in May 2005. Maiden flight was completed in October 2007 and payload evaluation flight was completed a year later in October 2008. This first model of Wing Loong series lacked the bulge at the nose tip of the fuselage due to the lack of a satellite antenna, and while the English name used by the developer differed from later models, the Chinese name remains the same, and so is the name Wing Loong for the entire series. The lack of satellite antenna results in cheaper cost, with the reduction of the maximum control range around to 200 km. This model is no longer actively marketed when Pterodactyl I appeared, but is still available as a cheaper alternative up on potential customers’ request.
- Pterodactyl I: The second member of Wing Loong series is distinguished from the earlier Pterosaur I in that there is a bulge at the nose tip of the fuselage to house a satellite antenna, and this is the version most widely publicized and actively marketed as a surveillance platform. United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan were reported to be the first two foreign customers of Pterodactyl I.
- Sky Saker: Sky Saker is a derivative of Wing Loong developed by Norinco mainly intended for export. The Chinese name is Rui Ying (锐鹰), meaning Sharp Eagle, but the English name adopted by the developer is Sky Saker. Sky Saker / Rui Ying carries both a miniature synthetic aperture radar and an electro-optical pod to perform reconnaissance in both the visible light and radar spectra. The capability of Sky Saker / Rui Ying has been exaggerated by many Chinese internet sources claiming that it has both scout and strike capabilities at the same time, but this has been proven to the contrary. According to all info released by Norinco itself (as of 2015), the UAV can employ only a single capability at a time: when the UAV carries the reconnaissance payload, no weaponry is carried. Similarly, when weaponry is carried, the reconnaissance payload is absent.
- WJ-1: The first land attack version of Pterodactyl I, which is a weapon platform without the reconnaissance/targeting pod under the chin. The designation WJ stands for Wu-Zhuang Wu-Ren-Ji (武装无人机), meaning armed UAV. WJ-1 UAV made its public debut in November 2014 at the 10th Zhuhai Airshow along with its cousin GJ-1.
- GJ-1: Another land attack version of Pterodactyl I that combines the capabilities of both Pterodactyl I and WJ-1 so that it can identify and engage targets on its own. GJ-1 can be distinguished from both Pterodactyl I and WJ-1 in that GJ-1 has both the reconnaissance/targeting pod under the chin as well as hardpoints to carry weapons. The designation GJ stands for Gong-Ji Wu-Ren-Ji (攻击无人机), meaning "attack UAV." GJ-1 UAV made its public debut in November 2014 at the 10th Zhuhai Airshow along with its cousin WJ-1.
- Wing Loong II: An upgraded variant of the Wing Loong, with provisions for up to twelve air-to-surface missiles.
- Wing Loong ID: Upgraded variant of the Wing Loong I, with improved aerodynamics and engine enabling greater takeoff weight, service ceiling, and endurance. Other upgrades include and both internal and external stores, as well as communications equipment. The variant is in development and is to be launched in 2018.
- China — In service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force
- Egypt — Reportedly exported to
- Indonesia — Contract signed in 2017, to be acquired in 2018.
- Kazakhstan — Two exported to in 2016, in service with the Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces
- Nigeria — Reportedly exported to
- Saudi Arabia — Exported to in 2014
- United Arab Emirates — Exported to in 2011, launch customer for Wing Loong II in 2017
- Uzbekistan — Reportedly exported to in 2012
- Pakistan — A Wing Loong crashed in Pakistan on 18 June 2016 raising theories the country may be evaluating the system. A Pakistani defence ministry official told a reporter that an unnamed UAV crashed on an "experimental flight", further fueling evaluating theories.
Specifications (Wing Loong I)
- Crew: None (UAV)
- Length: 9.05 m (29 ft 8 in)
- Wingspan: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
- Height: 2.77 m (9 ft 1 in)
- Gross weight: 1,100 kg (2,425 lb)
- Propellers: 3-bladed
- Maximum speed: 280 km/h (174 mph; 151 kn)
- Range: 4,000 km (2,485 mi; 2,160 nmi)
- Endurance: 20 hours
- Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,000 ft)
- 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) of air-to-surface weapons
- 100 kilograms (220 lb) capacity for sensors
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chengdu Wing Loong.|
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Since 2011, China has also sold the Wing Loong, an armed drone, to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
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A contract for the aircraft was signed in 2017, and the UAVs will be operated by the Indonesian Air Force’s (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara’s: TNI-AU’s) Aviation Squadron 51 (Skadron Udara 51), multiple sources from within the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap confirmed separately with Jane’s between 22 and 25 February.
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