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China and the Globalisation of Armed Drone Strikes

Scott N. Romaniuk & Tobias Burgers
RUSI Defence Systems, 26 February 2018
Aerospace, China
China’s rapid progress in developing and exporting armed and unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has significant implications and is undercutting long- running US efforts to control the spread of this technology around the world

China emerged as a competing drone power approximately five years ago and caught the attention of the US government that characterised China’s drone development as an ‘alarming’ event. In late 2016, China revealed its impressive strike-capable drone at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the Wing Loong II (an upgraded version of the Wing Loong), while giving the public a glimpse of its Caihong 5 attack-reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) (CH-5, Rainbow 5 – upgraded versions of the CH-3 and CH-4 drones that were Chinese versions of the US Predator and Reaper drones). Just last year, China secured a major export order for the latest generation of the CH attack drones series.

Despite their lower grade in comparison with their US counterparts, Chinese drones have become attractive products, coming in at nearly half the cost of US drones. Restrictive policies in the US that have been in place for years have also fed the recent expansion of the Chinese drone market. While the US has been careful not to sell its drones to governments questionable for their human rights violations, instability, and unpredictability, China has opted for a less inhibited approach to drone export.

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