Warplanes: Pakistan Promised Missile Armed Chinese UAVs


December 5, 2012: Pakistan recently announced that it would obtain armed UAVs from China. Few other details were revealed. Pakistan has been trying to develop armed UAVs for over six years, without success. China, however, has recently indicated that it has several missiles, especially the Blue Arrow 7 and HJ-10, that are identical in size and performance to the American Hellfire and can be used from UAVs. While these missiles have recently been offered for export, there are no known buyers or indications of how well these missiles actually work. China has also been offering a UAV of similar shape, weight, and performance as the U.S. Predator. Called CH-4, this UAV is similar in shape to the larger American MQ-9 Reaper, while its size is almost identical to the 1.2 ton Predator. CH-4 weighs 1.1 tons, has a 14 meter (46 feet) wingspan, and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. It has max altitude of 5,300 meters (16,400 feet) and an endurance of over 20 hours. This UAV should be able to carry a pair of Blue Arrow 7 missiles. Perhaps Pakistan is just waiting for some successful field tests before buying.

Over the last five years Pakistan has used several different types of UAVs along the Afghan and Indian borders. The most effective of these has been the Italian Falco UAV, which Pakistan ordered six years ago. The air force completed evaluation of the Falco four years ago and put at least four of them into service. Falco is a 420 kg (924 pound) aircraft with a 68.2 kg (150 pound) payload. Ceiling is 5,000 meters but it usually operates at lower altitudes (2,000 meters). Endurance is up to 12 hours but typical missions are 6-8 hours. Max speed is 210 kilometers an hour, although it usually cruises at 150. Falco can be up to 200 kilometers from its ground station. The UAV can take off and land on an air strip or use a catapult for takeoff and parachute for takeoff and landing.

Pakistan has also been using several Chinese UAVs for the last decade or so. First, they got the ASN-105, a 140 kg (308 pound) aircraft with a payload of 40 kg (88 pounds) and endurance of only two hours. This is a 1980s era design and has since been replaced by the ASN-206/207. This is a 222 kg (488 pound) aircraft with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 207 model has a max endurance of eight hours but more common is an endurance of four hours. Max range from the control van is 150 kilometers away and cruising speed is about 180 kilometers an hour.

Pakistan is also developing its own UAVs. Four years ago it tested the Uqaab. This design looks very similar to commercial models. These are smaller (under 250 kg/550 pounds) UAVs for the government and commercial use that have been around since the late 1990s. The Uqaab also appears similar to the U.S. Army RQ-7B Shadow 200. More recently a Pakistani firm has produced the 470 kg (1,034 pound) Shahpar, which can stay in the air seven hours per sortie. This model is very similar to the Chinese CH-3.

Pakistan requested Predators from the United States, but this was turned down because it was feared that the Chinese would be allowed to dissect the American UAV and acquire too many production secrets. Pakistan and China have been chummy for decades. No secrets between friends and all that. But European nations, like Italy and Germany, have been willing to sell Pakistan unarmed UAVs.