China's Wing Loong based on US Reaper drone

Posted by Thomas Anderson

The United States military has been operating its armed MQ-9 Reaper drone since 2007.

The Reaper is considered one of the "go-to" unmanned aerial vehicles for all sorts of missions, ranging from surveillance to missile strikes. 

So it comes as little surprise that the Reaper would serve as the basis for drones built by other countries such as China. Indeed, the Chinese Wing Loong, or pterodactyl, was recently spotted at the International Aviation in Zhuhai. The model shown there bears a distinct resemblance to the US-manufactured Reaper.  

The drone is currently categorized as operational and available for export. Previously the drone was only seen in mockup form.

While the drone looks very much like the US Reaper, it's significantly cheaper, says Wired Danger Room. To be sure, while the US Reaper does scale up and down in terms of price, it generally hovers somewhere in the $30 million per unit range.

The Chinese Wing Loong sells for only $1 million, making it a bargain compared to the American weapon system. So for $1 million weapon buyers will get a flight duration of approximately 20 hours and a range of up to 2,500 miles.

The drone is also equipped with four hard points for mounting various weapons, including laser and precision guided bombs. The ground control station is somewhat similar to the Reaper, although Wing Loong features three screens while the US drone offers 5.  

Interestingly, the Wing Loong wasn't the only Chinese drone on hand at the air show that seemed like a rip off of the Reaper. Another Chinese defense company had a drone on display dubbed the CH-4 which claims a range of over 2,000 miles and 30 hours of endurance.