A recently published video shows armed Chinese-made drones operating in Iraq.
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense recently released a video showing the launch of a Chinese-made CH-4B combat drone from al-Kut Air Base southeast of Baghdad in the presence of Iraq’s defense minister, Khaled-al-Obeidi.
According to the Iraqi defense minister interviewed in the clip, the CH-4B “Rainbow” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) shown in the video took off for its first combat mission against ISIS militants in Anbar province. The short video clip also features footage of the drone firing at an alleged ISIS target with an AR-1/HJ-10 anti-tank missile.
Iraq has received an unknown number of CH-4B combat drones in early 2015. It is not clear whether China supplied Iraq with just the CH-4B mixed attack and reconnaissance UAV shown in the video, or also with the CH-4A variant, a reconnaissance drone with a 5,000km range and 30-40 hour endurance.
China is incrementally gaining a larger foothold in the international arms market. “The design philosophy of the CH series drones [including the CH-4B] is similar to that behind the famous AK-47 assault rifle, which survived the emergence of advanced weapons, satellites, missiles and stealth fighter jets,” according to an analysis published in Air Force World.
Chinese combat drones offer a more affordable alternative to Western-made more high-tech UAVs in low-risk environments such as Iraq. (ISIS has very limited air-defense capabilities.) The video illustrates the growing proliferation of Chinese-made drones in medium and low-end markets. In addition, as the Popular Science article points out, the “growing use of Chinese drones in war zones also undercuts US makers’ claims that theirs are the only ‘battle-tested’ drones on the market.”