China has signed a contract to build a combat drone factory in the Middle East, a move which will significantly increase the nation’s presence in the region. The deals, worth $65 million, were made when the king of Saudi Arabia visited China earlier this month. According to the South China Morning Post, the factory will be a cooperative effort between the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
The CASC’s CH-4 hunter-killer drones are already being used in other Middle Eastern countries including Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia.
“The CH-4 has recorded outstanding performance in anti-terrorist attacks in Iraq, Yemen, as well as in Africa’s Sudan, Ethiopia and China’s neighboring Pakistan,” a former employee at CASC’s drone development subsidiary, Zhou Chenming, said, “That’s why our Saudi friends are so interested in the drone cooperation project.”
The Daily Caller reports:
While the U.S. is an undisputed leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, it keeps its drone technology close and its armed drones even closer, creating new opportunities for rising challengers like China.
The Middle East is a booming market, especially for counter-terrorism weaponry. Top arms imports in the Middle East have risen 86 percent between 2012 and 2016.
Chinese drones are less capable compared to their U.S. counterparts, but they are good enough and significantly cheaper. For the price of one U.S. combat drone, buyers can purchase four or five Chinese drones.
The new factory will be China’s third overseas combat drone factory, adding to existing ones in Myanmar and Pakistan. The nation is hoping to increase their share in the international arms trade, according to the Daily Caller.