BEIJING: Saudi Arabia has permitted a Chinese firm to set up a factory to manufacture hunter-killer aerial drones for the first time in the Middle East, in a boost to China’s drone manufacturing industry. Saudi Arabia’s key science and technology or-ganisation has confirmed that one of the deals sealed during Saudi King Salman’s visit to China this month was an agreement to set up the first factory for Chinese hunter-killer aerial drones in the Middle East. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on Thursday that the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) had signed a partnership agreement on March 16 with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which makes China’s CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a model with similar capabilities to the American Air Force’s MQ-1 Predator.
China and Saudi Arabia signed USD 65 billion worth of deals in energy, culture, education and technology during the king’s visit in the middle of this month. A Chinese military website and military experts said Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA) had signed a protocol with China’s Aerospace Long- March International Trade (ALIT) for the drone production line at the biennial International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi in February, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today. TAQNIA is a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, while ALIT is a Chinese export-import company that specialises in aerospace technologies.
Earlier this month, China’s Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute said its latest combat drone, which made its maiden test, is comparable to the United States MQ-9 Reaper and may turn out to be a “biggest export deal” for the country. A yellow prototype of the Wing Loong II conducted a 31-minute test flight from an unidentified airport in north western China last week, the Institute told the state media.