How China Became the World’s Leading Exporter of Combat Drones

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Credit: Jonathan Lampel/Unsplash

From Saudi Arabia to Myanmar and Iraq to Ethiopia, more and more militaries across the world are stockpiling Chinese combat drones and deploying them on the battlefield, reports Al Jazeera.

Chinese drones 

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has dispatched the Chinese aircraft, also known as uncrewed aerial vehicles or UAVs, as part of a devastating air campaign that has killed more than 8,000 Yemeni civilians in the past eight years. In Iraq, authorities say they used Chinese drones to carry out more than 260 air raids against ISIL (ISIS) targets as of mid-2018, with a success rate of nearly 100 percent.

In Myanmar, the military — armed with Chinese drones — has conducted hundreds of air attacks on civilians and ethnic armed groups opposed to its power grab two years ago, while in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s fleet of Chinese, Iranian and Turkish drones was critical in helping his forces thwart a rebel march in 2021 that threatened to overthrow his government.

Other buyers of China’s combat drones — aircraft that, in addition to intelligence gathering, can also fire air-to-surface missiles — include Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan and Serbia.

Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global arms transfers, shows China has delivered some 282 combat drones to 17 countries in the past decade, making it the world’s leading exporter of the weaponised aircraft. By comparison, the United States — which has the most advanced UAVs in the world — has delivered just 12 combat drones in the same period, all of them to France and the United Kingdom, according to SIPRI data.

The US, however, still leads in the export of unarmed surveillance drones.

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Source: AL Jazeera

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