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Pakistan Is Ready To Export Combat Drones

January 28, 2022

With India’s state-owned aerospace sector lurching toward breakthroughs in unmanned aircraft its nemesis is on the cusp of exporting its homegrown efforts at the same. The EDEX 2021 arms show brought a lot of Asian countries under its roof and among them was GIDS from Pakistan. An entire booth was set up for the Shahpar II medium altitude UAV but this time it was featured carrying a missile under each wing–the Burq. This confirms the expectations of an armed variant emerging when the Shahpar II enjoyed its original media appearances.

The Shahpar II is the largest and most capable propeller driven UAV manufactured by the state-owned Global Industrial & Defense Solutions (GIDS). Readers will find its airframe familiar as it resembles the delta wing layout of the Burraq, itself based on the CASC CH-3, with the addition of canards on the main fuselage. What makes the Shahpar II all the more impressive is GIDS developed prominent winglets for enhancing its maneuverability and have integrated satellite navigation. Now that there are hardpoints on either wing the Shahpar II is a genuine attack drone and the second to be developed by a Pakistani manufacturer after the Burraq.

It turns out the Shahpar II’s payload for now is limited to the Burq air-to-ground missile, which is suspected to be a variant of the Chinese-made AR-1 missile, although the Burq may have evolved beyond its origins. Open sources about the Burq missile are scarce yet a plaque accompanying the munition displayed at the EDEX 2021 arms show mentioned a range between 500 meters and 8 kilometers. The dimensions of the Burq are in line with other air-to-ground missiles, having a 150mm diameter for the airframe (rather than the optical seeker) and a 1,450mm or 57 inch length.

To make a useful comparison the Turkish equivalent of the Burq is the UMTAS that has the same range but larger dimensions–the diameter is 160mm and the length is 70 inches. The UMTAS and the L-UMTAS manufactured by Roketsan are proven to be adaptable for aircraft, ships, and vehicles. The same can be done for the Burq, however, this isn’t advertised by GIDS. Another similar munition is the Pars 3 air-to-ground missile from MBDA. The dimensions are nearly the same except the missile’s length at 62 inches. The Pars 3’s maximum range is limited to 7 km although the munition is primarily meant for attack helicopters such as the Eurocopter Tiger.

Both GIDS and the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) have catalogs for air-launched munitions and a family of ordnance suited to the Shahpar II should eventually emerge. GIDS is rumored to have another medium altitude drone in the works whose appearance is closer to the TAI Anka and the CASC CH-4 but when this new model emerges is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s attempts to export the Shahpar II UAV may attract countries who can’t acquire Israeli and US-made drones. Recent conflicts have shown that defense ministries who badly need close air support for their ground forces buy whatever drones are offered to them. Azerbaijan is a good example with its immense spending on Israeli and Turkish drones besides building its own factory for assembling drones. Saudi Arabia’s multiple acquisitions of Chinese, South African, and US-made drones does come to mind as well.

The Shahpar II’s limited payload at present won’t stay the same for long. A new engine that supports greater take off weight usually allows for more hard points to carry munitions. This is evident in combat drones such as the Baykar Akinci and the Kaman-22. Sometimes modifications to the placement of the fuel tanks and designing new wings allow for bigger payloads in a new variant. GIDS now boasts an entire catalog of drones in all sizes and having access to global suppliers–as well as Chinese ones–means its production capacity and technological grasp have no impediments. Since Pakistan is catching up with the success of Iran and Turkey when it comes to unmanned aircraft its small but effective drone programs are about to enjoy their heyday.


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