The Drone Index: Nescom Burraq
Earlier this month, Pakistan joined the select handful of countries who possess lethal drones. For the first time ever, the official media outlet of the armed forces announced the successful test firing of a missile by a UAV.
On March 13 the Burraq participated in a live demonstration before a civilian and military audience. While airborne it tracked both static and mobile targets, eliminating both with its wing-mounted Barq missiles.
Two weeks later, on March 23, the Burraq swept above the Republic Day ceremonies in Islamabad where Pakistan’s tanks and armored vehicles were being paraded. It is believed the occasion served as a booster for Pakistan’s armed forces, who are still battling militants in the country’s northwest.
Earlier this week, the Burraq allegedly flew combat missions around the Tirah Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Burraq’s existence is credited to the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (Nescom), a state-owned industrial complex based in Islamabad. Nescom doesn’t have an official website and product literature on the Burraq is unavailable online.
A fair amount of speculation has since emerged concerning the Burraq’s origins. Some analysts believe it’s either a license-built or imported Chinese CH-3 drone. Others claim the Burraq was developed by Pakistan based on the US-made hobbyist Long EZ remote control plane.
There is a possibility the Burraq is an evolved variant of the Falco, an Italian twin boom UAV used by Pakistan’s air force in limited numbers. But there is scant evidence proving this.
Pakistan’s armed forces have a wealth of experience with UAVs. Like most countries with sophisticated air defense assets, maintaining a fleet of target drones is required to test SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery.
Since the previous decade, each military branch have acquired squadrons of light and medium UAVs for ISR missions, including the German-made Luna X-2000 and locally built models. The latter are proof that Pakistan’s unmanned vehicle industry is mature.
The Burraq serves as the armed counterpart of the Shahpar, a similar medium range UAV designed for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. The Shahpar is manufactured by the local defense conglomerate GIDS. Both were formally revealed by the ISPR in late 2013. At the time the Burraq’s role as an armed UAV wasn’t disclosed.
The Burraq is recognizable for its sleek fuselage, swept-wing design, and distinctive canards. If the Burraq and Shahpar are indeed identical except for their roles, then it’s the Shahpar’s characteristics which bear mentioning.
The Shahpar uses a 1,000 horsepower propeller driven airframe with a maximum speed of 150 km/h. Its ceiling is below 20,000 feet and its endurance is equally limited at just seven hours.
The Shahpar, however, is capable of automatic take off and landing.
It’s unknown how many Burraqs are operational. Their export potential is a question mark too. The Burraq and models similar to it do represent the oncoming generation of UAVs: low cost precision attack systems for militaries in the developing world.
The Burraq’s purpose is consistently identified as an anti-terrorist platform. It makes sense given Pakistan’s experience of having US drones flying within its airspace.