Technology, Power & Security Combat Drones Made in China Are Coming to a Conflict Near You

March 18, 2021
By Bruce Einhorn, Lucille Liu, Colum Murphy, and Nick Wadhams | Bloomberg News

Perry World House Director Michael C. Horowitz comments on the proliferation of drone technology in Bloomberg News.

A dozen years into its fight with the Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram, Nigeria is getting some new weapons: a pair of Wing Loong II drones from China. The deal is one of a growing number of sales by state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), which has exported scores of the aircraft. The United Arab Emirates has used AVIC drones in Libya’s civil war, Egypt has attacked rebels in Sinai with them, and Saudi-led troops have deployed them in Yemen. The company’s drones “are now battle-tested,” says Heather Penney, a fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, a think tank in Arlington, Va. “They’ve been able to feed lessons learned back into their manufacturing.”...

Over the past decade, China has delivered 220 drones to 16 countries, according to Sipri. That’s prompted other nations to boost their capabilities in the field, says Michael Horowitz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Japan, South Korea, and Belarus are developing drone technology. Turkey supplied drones that helped Azerbaijan defeat Armenia in last year’s conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia in January agreed to send drones to Myanmar and is working on longer-range models. Serbia and Pakistan say they intend to use purchases from China to seed their own programs. “Armed drone proliferation is inevitable because of Chinese exports,” Horowitz says.

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