China is actively engaged in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles. Currently, it is one of the world leaders in the field of their construction.
China has managed to enter a narrow circle of leaders with all the key technologies in this area in a short period of time. This made it possible for China to actively enter the international market of attack and reconnaissance UAVs. IDEAS experts at the London School of Economics analyzed the program of sales of Chinese drones to states with which China cooperates in the framework of the "One Belt and One Road" infrastructure project, which involves a significant number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These countries are increasingly paying attention to China's defense manufacturers. Chinese drones with artificial intelligence are increasingly in the skies over Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Over the past decade, Chinese drone exports to the region have increased significantly, leading to a decline in U.S. market share. According to IDEAS, Saudi Arabia has already acquired 70 Chinese combat UAVs, Egypt 60, the UAE 40, Pakistan 25, Iraq and Myanmar 12.
The last known contract is an order from Nigeria for additional attack and reconnaissance drones of the MALE WingLoong-2 class. A contract for several CaiHong-4s is also expected. The Nigerian government is using drones to deter Boko Haram terrorists.
Chinese UAVs are widely used in conflicts in the Arab world, primarily in Libya and Yemen. Recently, a Saudi-owned CaiHong-4B drone was shot down in Yemen.
It is obvious that the processes of expanding the export of Chinese UAVs will continue. The result will be a further increase in competition, primarily with the United States, in this segment of weapons.
Despite the fact that, according to experts, Chinese combat UAVs are still inferior in a number of indicators to their counterparts from the United States, Russia and Israel, they also have their own advantages: a much lower price and also a longer flight duration.
At the same time, China is actively using the development of its international infrastructure projects to deepen cooperation in the defense sector, which contributes to the expansion of China's influence in the region.