China conducted the first flight of the indigenous Wing-Loong II unmanned aircraft system (UAS) on February 27, the state-run Xinhua News Agency announced. The development coincided with news that manufacturer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has received a large order for the reconnaissance and strike drone from an unidentified customer.
First revealed in September 2015 and exhibited as a model at the Singapore Air Show last year, the Wing-Loong II is a new generation, turboprop-powered UAS designed by AVIC’s Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute. The number-one aircraft performed a 31-minute flight from “a highland airfield in western China,” Xinhua said.
Stated specifications of the Wing-Loong II are a wingspan of 67 feet (20.5 meters), maximum takeoff weight of 9,260 pounds (4,200 kg), external payload capacity of 1,058 pounds (480 kg), maximum altitude of 29,527 feet and 20 hours’ endurance. The aircraft bears resemblence to the heavier, more capable U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper, which carries 3,750 pounds (1,701 kg) and operates to 50,000 feet, according to the U.S. Air Force.
“Its flight marks China’s new generation reconnaissance and strike UAS,” chief designer Li Yidong told Xinhua. “Following the United States, China becomes another country capable of developing such new generation large reconnaissance and strike UAS.” The Wing-Loong II “can rapidly identify then strike against time-critical and fleeting targets. The capability is not possessed by previous unmanned aircraft, even manned aircraft,” he added.
Coincident with the maiden flight, Xinhua reported that an unidentified customer has placed an order for the Wing-Loong II representing China’s largest-ever UAS foreign military sale. Reported operators of the original Wing-Loong including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt have been mentioned as possible recipients.