The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has become the staple of USAF drone operations.
China has produced a copy of the system, which it dubs the Wing Loong II. It’s reported that Saudi Arabia has ordered up to 300 of them, because they’re sold with far fewer restrictions than US drones. The Wing Loong II is clearly a close copy of the Reaper in many respects, and has now been tested with Chinese versions of similar weapons to those carried by the Reaper. Here’s a Chinese publicity video showing the tests.
Clearly, the virtual US monopoly over high-end drones – at least those intended for use in areas where there are no major air defenses – is over. My worry is, if a country like Iran gets its hands on similar equipment, will it try to use them to turn the tables on US forces in countries like Afghanistan or Iraq?
The US has never had a monopoly on long range armed unmanned aircraft; the Israelis are far ahead of us (some of our systems were designed by them) – but they are notoriously tight lipped about their military advances, so the US has gotten more publicity, much of it for political reasons more than technical.
China has some other systems, copied from us, Israel, and even Russia – I'm sure that some of that knowledge has contributed to Iran's ever growing program that Israel has had to develop ways to counter.
It is far too late to hope that Iran doesn't develop the capability!
The moon shot program took a national-scale effort, but in the present, SpaceX achieved serious results with only 600 employees. Apply this growth pattern to drones, and what happens? Soon, drones will become cheap enough that small groups will be using them to defend against tax collection. Imagine Waco turning out the other way. Technological growth on net empowers distributed defense more than centralized offense. 1984 and Brave New World appear to be incorrect predictions Make your plans now for how you will live life after tax collection ends, in a post-government world.
…and China is still over a decade behind the USA. I am FAR more concerned with terrorists weaponizing drones than China.
They only work in a permissive environment.
If they are launched in Iraq or A-stan, we'd simply shoot them down.
Those new A-29 Super Tucanos would be racking up ace-tallies in no time if they tried using them. They'll be one-half-mission acquisitions, and then smoking holes in the ground.
And if a signature and base operator are in range, they'll Wild Weasel the operating base, and shred the ground launch bases as well.
More money for China for replacements, more Hellfires and HARMs up Hadji's tailpipe.
Despite doing a fair bit of research I haven't been able to find all that much good information about the jamming of UAV control links. Those people I know in the industry are very tight lipped about that issue. You can get hints and stories about a lot of stuff by simply listening to them talking shop or asking some armchair aviation/military enthusiast questions but electronic warfare makes them clam up. I get the feeling that while the vehicle itself, sensor package, armament if any, even its radar cross section are important the real voodoo is in the resilience of the communication link and the software which allows degrees of autonomy if that link becomes unavailable.
Johathan H: "some of our systems were designed by them"
Most of their systems were based on technology stolen from the US.
Re. Israeli drones:
I recall, back in another century, the miltary applications of drones was getting to be a thing.
The US spent umpteen million dollars developing our first prototype.
The Isaelis prototype drone was built for $10,000 in the garage of are retired guy in Tel Aviv.
The Israeli drone far outperformed the US model.
RE Israeli drones
The US bought the rights to use IDF technology for a number of drone platforms.
I wouldn't be surprised if the IDF didn't sell the same thing to the Chi-Coms.