China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group – a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) – has announced the development of a facility dedicated to producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Sichuan province, Janes reported.
The 10 billion Chinese yuan ($1.55 billion) facility in Zigong city will produce military and commercial drones, according to a statement issued by the Sichuan government.
The industrial park, which will be operational by 2023, will provide service “across the entire UAV industrial chain” including design, research, development, testing, assembly, manufacturing (including 3D printing), commissioning, and sustainment, Janes added.
The facility’s expected production of 100 drones every year is emblematic of China’s recent rise as one of the world’s largest exporters of combat drones.
Chinese Drones Active Around the World
Chinese drones, particularly those manufactured by AVIC, have been deployed in armed conflicts all over the world.
The United Arab Emirates has used AVIC drones in the Libyan civil war while Egypt has used them against rebels in the Sinai province, Bloomberg reported in March, adding that Saudi Arabia has also deployed the UAVs in the Yemen conflict.
Nigeria has also ordered two AVIC-made Wing Loong II drones to deploy against Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram in its decade-long conflict.
Explaining the growing popularity of the Chinese drones, Ulrike Franke, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Bloomberg that they’re cheaper than comparable aircraft from other producers, and China doesn’t much care how they’re used.
Global Armed Drone Race
Michael Horowitz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, told Bloomberg that China’s drone-making spree has triggered an arms race around the world. He cited the recently announced indigenous drone-making programs of countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Belarus.
The Chinese government has rejected charges that it’s fuelling an arms race, saying that their drone-making capabilities are solely to improve the defensive capabilities of their clients.