China's Strategy to Be the Biggest Exporter of Combat Drones in the World

China's Strategy to Be the Biggest Exporter of Combat Drones in the World

If quality is the reference, most countries may wish to purchase combat/combatant drones - Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) to the United States and Israel. However, of course, matters of quality must be secondary, because the US and Israel have strict standards and rules for the sale of combat drones. 

Countries with big pockets don't necessarily get permission to buy drones from the two countries. And it was then that China emerged as an alternative supplier, now the world's largest exporter of UCAVs.

It must be acknowledged that the rise of the drone industry in China is so fast, not only talking in the military sphere, the world of civilian drones has also received a large portion of development. And when China is lined up as the world's leading exporter of combat drones, it becomes a question, how can China so quickly dominate the drone market in the world, of course not just a limiting factor from the US and Israel.

Data from a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), stated that China has sent around 282 combat drones to 17 countries in the past decade, making it the world's leading exporter of armed aircraft. In comparison, the United States only sent 12 combat drones in the same period, and even then only to France and England.

While China, in the last decade has been able to market combat drones, ranging from Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Iraq, Ethiopia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Serbia and Indonesia.

China's dominance of the global market for combat drones over the past decade is partly due to the enormous efforts funded by the Chinese Government itself, which seeks to upgrade the country's armed forces to “world-class standards.”

"So far, the main focus of China's drone program has been on replicating other countries' capabilities," said Akhil Kadidal, an aviation reporter at Janes. 

This includes surveillance, attack and electronic warfare capabilities. He noted that China's best-selling combat drone, the Caihong 4 (CH-4), is almost identical to the US-made MQ-9 Reaper, while the popular Wing Loong 2 is similar to the US-made MQ-1 Predator.

Want to appear more stunning than US-made combat drones. Like the Wing Loong 2 and 3, the Chinese claim that these two drones are not only faster than their US-produced counterparts, but are said to be capable of carrying a larger payload.

As well as being similar in design and capabilities to US-made drones, Chinese drones are also much cheaper, making them more attractive to global buyers. For example, the CH-4 and Wing Loong 2 are estimated to cost between US$1 million and US$2 million, while the Reaper costs US$16 million and the Predator US$4 million.

Quoted from, the cheaper drone price tag means interested buying countries can also buy drones in larger quantities.

Ease of Financing

China also offers flexible payment terms to interested buying countries. “Chinese companies realize that countries in North Africa are not rich, and allow them to pay not in cash, but in installments, sometimes even to exchange drones for local natural resources such as minerals,” said Zhou Chenming, an analyst from Beijing, told the South China Morning Post.

US Strict Export Controls

More than any other factor, analysts say countries are turning to Chinese drones due to export controls imposed by the US. Washington limits sales of its combat drones by reference to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a treaty drawn up in 1987 to limit the proliferation of platforms capable of delivering chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

It reportedly refused requests for the sale of combat drones to Jordan, Iraq, and the UAE, forcing these countries to buy combat drones from China instead.

Freedom of Use

China imposes fewer restrictions on the use of combat drones. “This means countries that buy Chinese combat drones can operate as they see fit, even if it violates international law and human rights,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, senior researcher at IISS.

For China, the use of other countries' drones on the battlefield provides valuable feedback to refine its product capabilities.

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