CAIG Wing Loong

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Pterodactyl I
Wing Loong.jpg
Side view of Chinese multi-role UAV Wing Loong
Manufacturer Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group
Designer Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute
First flight 2009

Altitude 27000 Pods SAR and ELINT

Introduction 2011
Status in service & in production[1]
Primary users People's Liberation Army Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
United Arab Emirates Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Produced 2009
Developed into CAIG Wing Loong II

The Chengdu Pterodactyl I (Chinese: 翼龙-1[2]; 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.[1] 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.[3]

Design and development[edit]

Designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), a division of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC),[4][5] the Pterodactyl I bears a distinct similarity in appearance to the Predator/Reaper family of drones developed by the United States.[5][6] The drone is capable of being fitted with a variety of sensors, including a forward looking infrared turret and synthetic aperture radar.[4] In addition, the aircraft is capable of carrying weapons.[6] The Pterodactyl I's total payload capacity for sensors and weapons is 200 kilograms (440 lb).[4]

Operational history[edit]

According to CADI, the Pterodactyl I undergone flight testing and has proven successful, with the flight test program including weapons tests of both bombs and air-to-surface missiles.[4]

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;[5][6] however, it was claimed by AVIC that the aircraft had been displayed at the 2008 airshow.[4] The aircraft has been approved for export by Chinese authorities; the Pterodactyl I was evaluated by Pakistan, but was not selected for procurement.[4]

One example of the type was known to have been lost in an accident during 2011.[7]

China National Aero Technology Import & Export Corp is managing exportation of Pterodactyl UAV and 100 exported as of late 2018.[8] An unknown number of Pterodactyl UAVs were purchased by Saudi Arabia in May 2014.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11][12][13]

In April 2018 they were used in Yemen by the Saudi led Operation Decisive Storm in successfully killing Saleh Ali al-Sammad, a senior Houthi leader by Wing Loong UCAV.[14] In April 19 2019 the military media of Yemeni movement Ansar Allah published video for downing Wing Loong UCAV acting for Saudi-led intervention over Saada district.[15]

On August 3 2019 Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) forces announced the shoot down of a drone belonging to rival Libyan National Army (LNA) forces. These forces loyal to general Khalifa Haftar were already known to extensively deploy Chinese-made Wing Loong drones (supplied and operated by the United Arab Emirates.[16]) in the Civil War conflict against the GNA, The GNA also deployed Turkish drones in its war after receiving 12 Bayraktar TB2s in two batches between May and July 2019, at least half of them have been destroyed during LNA airstrikes using Wing Loong IIs, the second batch delivered in July was to replace the losses of the first.[17]

In December 1 2019, Houthi forces reported shooting down an AH-64 Apache helicopter and Wing Loong drone over Yemen.[18]


Wing Loong MAKS 2017

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.[19] 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,[19] 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.[20][21][22][19][23] The lack of satellite antenna results in cheaper cost, with the reduction of the maximum control range around to 200 km.[24] 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.[25]
  • 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • 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.[28]
  • 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 both internal and external stores, as well as communications equipment. The variant launched in 2018 with Egypt being the first buyer of 32 systems.[29][30][31] The variant achieved its first flight on 23 December 2018.[32]

Further development[edit]

Wing Loong II side view, Dubai Air Show 2017
  • Wing Loong II: An upgraded variant of the Wing Loong, with provisions for up to twelve air-to-surface missiles. Officially entered service with the PLAAF in November 2018.[33][34][35]
  • GJ-2: Chinese military version of Wing Loong II, in service as of 2019.[36]


Map with Wing Loong UAV operators in blue

Current operators[edit]

An Kazakh Air Force CAIG Wing Loong during a Defender of the Fatherland Day parade on Independence Square in Nur-Sultan.

Specifications (Wing Loong I)[edit]

Data from ,[4][6]

General characteristics

  • 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 (170 mph, 150 kn)
  • Range: 4,000 km (2,500 mi, 2,200 nmi)
  • Endurance: 20 hours
  • Service ceiling: 8,000 m (26,000 ft)



  • 100 kilograms (220 lb) capacity for sensors

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



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  2. ^ 19 November 2010, Pterodactyl-1 UAV allowed for export, Sina News (in Chinese)
  3. ^ China's Pterodactyl Yi Long drone weapon types -, 16 Oct 2014
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Wall 2010
  5. ^ a b c Minnick 2010
  6. ^ a b c d Zeitler 2011, p.25.
  7. ^ Chinese Predator UAV look-alike crashes
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