Recent satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe images taken from 3 August shows a UAV matching the dimensions of the Chinese-made Wing Loong II UCAV deployed in Assab Airport, Eritrea.
The satellite image confirms that the United Arab Emirates has deployed at least one of its new Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Wing Loong II unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to its base at Assab airport in Eritrea.
The UAE which is the first export customer of the Chinese-made Wing Loong II is reported to have ordered an undisclosed number of armed Wing-Loong II UCAVS in 2017. Prior to the deployment, Eritrean and the United Arab Emirates Air Force officials constructed two new 26×21 metres aircraft shelters in early March.
These new shelters are slightly larger than the existing ones that are used by the Dassault Mirage 2000 jets and IOMAX Archangel turboprops the United Arab Emirates has at the base to support military operations across the Red Sea in Yemen.
The Chengdu Pterodactyl I also known as Wing Loong , is a Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), a division of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), in the People’s Republic of China. Intended for use as a surveillance and aerial reconnaissance platform, and ground attack.
Powered by a turpoprop engine, the Wing Loong II has a range of 4,000 km (2,485 mi; 2,160 nmi), an endurance of 20 hours, and a ceiling of 5,000 m (16,000 ft). It can carry a 1,000 kg payload, including sensors and laser-guided missiles, such as the Chinese-made AR-1 ground-attack weapon, and FT-1 precision-guided bombs with a range of up to 6.2miles (10km).
This latest development highlights the growing military assertiveness of the UAE, since 2016, the small Gulf nation has been trying to establish itself as the West’s primary counterterrorism partner in the region while simultaneously bolstering its military capabilities through arms deals with Beijing.
Similarly, the United States has recently started arming its fleet of MQ-9 Drones stationed in the West African nation of Niger earlier this year, according to the U.S. Africa Command.