|Staff Reporter |||Dec 07, 2016 08:47 AM EST|
(Photo : CASC) Cai Hong family of aerial drones.
Some of the most militarily powerful Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have turned to China to fill their needs for the armed aerial drones now seeing combat in the Middle East.
China has sold its CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which are using the UAVs to attack Houthi rebels in Yemen and ISIS terrorists in Libya. Iraq is using its fleet of CH-4B (Cai Hong-4B) aerial drones to destroy ISIS vehicles, fighters and buildings.
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Iraq is the leading combat operator of the CH-4 that's armed with Chinese-made, precision strike AR-1 missiles and FT-5 precision guided bombs. A CH-4B can mount up to six 45 kg AR-1 semi-active laser-guided missiles.
Iraq first used its CH-4B in combat in October 2015 and since then has deployed the drone to deadly effect.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey have launched cross border strikes on at least six occasions in the past 15 months and have used its Chinese-made UAVs in combat during these incursions.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are fighting Houthis in Yemen; Iran is using them against anti-Assad rebels in Syria and Iraq while Turkey has deployed them against ISIS in Iraq.
The past year has seen a surge in the use of armed drones by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Turkey, said a report by Drone Wars UK, a website dedicated to providing information about the growing use of armed drones.
The report added it's "highly likely that other countries will acquire the technology and begin launching drone strikes over the next 18 months, including European countries. The implications for global peace and security of multiple nations using drones to launch cross border strikes is very serious."
It argues the international community must accelerate the "embryonic moves" it is making to control proliferation if "there is to be any realistic chance of stemming the tide of drone strikes."
CH-4 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle system designed and built by China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (also known as the 11th Academy) of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC) consortium.
It is the largest member of the Cai Hong (Rainbow) class and looks remarkably similar to the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper UAV built by General Atomics. Some American experts believe the striking resemblance is another example of Chinese spying put to use in the real world.
The reason for the CH-4s popularity in the Middle East and Africa is its price: a CH-4 costs only $1 million compared to the price tag of $30 million for the MQ-9 Reaper.
Another reason is the no questions asked policy of CASC in contrast to the Americans who strictly limit the sale of the Predator to countries with acceptable humans rights records.
The CH-4 has a range of about 3,500 km and can loiter over a target for up to 40 hours
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