Pakistan to Purchase 10 More Chinese Caihong-4 Drones

Pakistan plans to purchase 10 more Caihong-4 (CH-4) Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), costing an estimated 24 million USD.

Further details, such as variants or the date of the sale, are not currently known. The CH-4s sent to Pakistan could be outfitted with the superior turbocharged, four-stroke Lark HLE engine with 150 horsepower. The Lark HLE could also contain the high-pressure common-rail fuel system (HPCR), allowing for more efficient operations.

The CH-4s may also have full authorized digital electronic control (FADEC) for higher performance and an average time of 2,000 hours before an overhaul.

Pakistan’s Current Fleet

Pakistan operates the Turkish Anka, Bayraktar TB2, Akinci, their own domestically produced Shapar-II drone, the Chinese Wing Loong II, and the CH-4, serving either combat or reconnaissance operations. 

The CH-4 has a payload of 761 pounds (345 kg), a maximum takeoff weight of 2,900 pounds (1,300 kg), an endurance of 40 hours, and a cruising speed of up to 205 mph (330 km/h).

CH-4 displayed at the 10th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province, in 2014. Source: Xinhua/Liang Xu

The CH-4 can perform reconnaissance and combat roles, carrying up to six different types of munitions, including various missiles such as the AR-1 and AR-2, FT-7/130 286 pound (130 kg) glide bombs, and GB-7/50 110 pound (50 kg) precision-guided munition (PGM), among other weapons. 

Analysis

Pakistan’s acquisition of more CH-4s doubles its current fleet of UAVs, greatly enhancing combat and intelligence-gathering abilities. 

Purchasing more CH-4s, a platform Pakistan is already familiar with. The Pakistani Air Force has operated and maintained the CH-4s since 2021, which could be why they wanted to purchase more. The repeat purchases, along with the joint Wing Loong II project, could mean China may consider selling the CH-5 to Pakistan, as they did with Iraq.

China also likely wants to keep selling drones globally to keep its place as an international drone exporter and compete with Western countries that export UAVs. 

The purchased CH-4s could also be in response to the order of 31 General Dynamics MQ-9 Reaper drones by India in February 2024.Ten additional CH-4 drones are likely an attempt to match the recent MQ-9 purchase, along with India’s current fleet of UAVs.

Pakistan could also use the CH-4s to maintain balance within the region, such as the contested Kashmir border between India and Pakistan. 

Unlike India, the United States refuses to sell the MQ-9 Reaper to Pakistan, likely due to accusations of human rights violations. Pakistan may not be able to afford the MQ-9, which costs around $31 million, compared to the average price for the CH-4, which is around $2–4 million. 

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