Singapore Air Show

Turboprop UAV from China

 - February 15, 2016, 11:00 AM
Chengdu Wing Loong II turboprop-powered UAV

First revealed by way of an information sheet at the Beijing Aero Show in September last year, the Chengdu Wing Loong II turboprop-powered UAV is being exhibited in model form for the first time outside China by Chinese aerospace group Catic (Stand S09). The model shows an air vehicle with a slender fuselage, not unlike that of the General Atomics Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper. Like the Reaper, it has large butterfly fins with a smaller ventral fin, but whereas the U.S. machine has wings with constant taper, Wing Loong II has a straight center section, outboard of which are tapering sections leading to tips with winglets.

Tantalizing glimpses of what are likely to be Wing Loong II appeared on Chinese websites earlier last year, several months before the official revelation, including one image depicting just the butterfly tail and rear fuselage of a primer-painted test aircraft. A prototype is likely to have flown. Within hours of a report about the UAV appearing in AIN a model of the aircraft was quietly removed from the Catic display.

Wing Loong II’s powerplant is unknown, but could be a variant of the 600-hp WJ-9 developed initially to power the Harbin Y-12 light transport aircraft. The vehicle can carry up to 12 guided missiles in pairs on its six underwing pylons, targeted by an under-nose sensor turret. Illustrations show the Norinco BA-9 weapon.

Released figures for the UAV include a wingspan of 67 ft., 3 in. (20.5 m), maximum takeoff weight of 9,260 pounds (4,200 kg) and an endurance of 20 hours. The stated external payload of 1,060 pounds (480 kg) is considerably below the 3,000-pounds (1,400-kg) of the MQ-9 Reaper, while the quoted ceiling of 29,500 feet (9, 000 m) is much lower than the 50,000 feet (15,240 m) achievable by the MQ-9.

In the same way that the Reaper grew out of the original Predator, so Wing Loong II is a larger and better-performing aircraft drawing on experience and the design concept of the original Wing Loong, a Predator-size UAV that is in service with the Chinese air force as the GJ-1.

The earlier Wing Loong has been marketed by Catic, and has achieved a number of successes. Export operators include Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the UAV has been used on operations over Yemen.