Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Saudi Arabia’s First Domestic Long-distance UAV Fires Only Chinese-made Missiles and Bombs

Chinese influence

(Photo : RSAF) Saudi Arabia's Saqr 1 UAV.

Saqr 1, Saudi Arabia's first indigenous medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), shows strong Chinese influence in its design and is armed only with Chinese guided missiles and smart bombs.

The UAV will see action against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting against a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab nations.

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Saqr 1 was first revealed to the public a few days ago at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh. KACST President Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed said Saqr 1 is equipped with a Ka satellite communication system and with thermal imaging and surveillance technology for weapon guidance.

The UAV has a range of 2,500 km and can reach an average altitude of over 6,000 meters. It can fly non-stop for 24 hours powered by its Rotax 914 (95 hp) engine. Saqr 1 is 9.2 meters in length and has a wingspan of 18 meters.

In appearance, Saqr 1 resembles China's CH-4 (Cai Hong-4) UAV operated by the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Like Saqr 1, CH-4 is also a MALE UAV and both are armed with the same Chinese-made munitions.

These weapons are the AR-1 semi-active laser-guided missile and the FT-9 guided bomb. AR-1 is used against tanks and armored vehicles, and can also penetrate buildings. It can pierce 1,000 mm of armor plate.

AR-1 has an effective range of eight kilometers and a circular error probable (CEP) of only 1.5 meters.

On the other hand, the FT-9 smart bomb weighs 50 kg, and is guided to its target by a combination GPS/INS system. These weapons are mounted on two hardpoints capable of a combined payload weighing 250 kg.

CH-4 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-4's 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.

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