Citing a senior Nigerian Air Force official on Tuesday, Janes Defense Weekly reported on the same day that Nigeria has received a pair of Wing Loong II drones developed by Chinese state-owned arms firm Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, was quoted by the report as saying that Nigeria has joined China and the UAE as the only countries operating the Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
The two Nigerian Air Force Wing Loong IIs, which can stay airborne for 31 hours in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mode and 26 hours in offensive roles, will add significant value to counter-insurgency and anti-banditry operations, the official said.
A Chinese military expert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the arms sale will further open up the global military drone market for Chinese defense firms, particularly in Africa.
China's drones have unique advantages on the international arms market, due to mature drone technologies, complete systems for setups, a variety of types and sizes of drones, much lower prices compared to Western products, and complete service chains including training and maintenance, the expert said.
Wang Ya'nan, a military aviation expert and chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Wednesday that China's armed reconnaissance drones have seen real combat in regional conflict.
In small scale conflicts, Chinese drones have carried out accurate reconnaissance and precision strikes on targets even in complicated terrain and weather conditions, Wang said, noting that this makes Chinese drones combat-proven.
Users of Chinese drones can rapidly boost their combat capabilities in domestic security issues and in regional conflicts, Wang said.
Developed by AVIC's Chengdu Aircraft Design & Research Institute, the Wing Loong II drone is a long endurance armed reconnaissance unmanned aerial system capable of firing dozens of weapons including missiles and bombs, the Xinhua News Agency reported. It is often compared to the US-made MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The Wing Long series also includes the original Wing Loong I and the upgraded Wing Loong I-D. As of December 2018, AVIC has exported 100 Wing Loong series drones since 2010, Xinhua said in a separate report at that time. More drones are believed to have been exported over the past two years.
By Liu Xuanzun