By Derek Bisaccio
At Kazakhstan's KADEX 2016 defense exhibition, held annually in Astana, the country revealed that it had taken delivery of a Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
An outdoor exhibit at the exhibition showed a Chengdu Pterodactyl-1 on display, with markings for the Kazakh Armed Forces, confirming for the first time that the country's military had taken delivery of the system from China. Only one Pterodactyl-1 – with the tail number "01" – was on display, making it unclear how many Kazakhstan has acquired.
The Pterodactyl-1, also referred to as the Wing Loong (pictured above), is intended to be used as a reconnaissance drone, but can be equipped with various air-to-surface armaments, such as HJ-10 missiles or guided bombs. The UAV can reach a maximum speed of 280 kilometers per hour, with a range of 4,000 kilometers.
Earlier in the year, in March, Kazakhstan received two drones, according to Kazakh media. They were not named at the time, but are presumed to be both Pterodactyl-1s. Around the same time in March, Chinese television footage showed a production line of UAVs. The Pterodactyl-1s visible in the footage have distinguishing markings covered, though one clearly has a number "03" on it (at 19:57 in the video), similar to the "01" on the drone at KADEX 2016. It is unclear if the drones in the video are the same ones Kazakhstan is receiving.
Kazakhstan has been considering buying Chinese UAVs for some time, including the Pterodactyl-1s. Kazakh media reported in 2012 that the two sides agreed to consider the delivery of "samples," though the model of drone was not revealed. China demonstrated the Pterodactyl drone during Peace Mission 2014 military exercises also attended by Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Details about Chinese exports of UAVs are usually limited. Prior to the unveiling of a Pterodactyl-1 at KADEX 2016, no concrete information about a contract had been public. It still is not clear how many Kazakhstan purchased and what the delivery time frame for more would be.
Recently, China has been aggressively marketing its UAVs to foreign customers, and appears to be finding success, particular in the Middle East. A Pterodactyl-1 reportedly belonging to Saudi Arabia appeared in a video in February of this year. Other Chinese combat drones, like the CH-4, are reported to be in the hands of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq. The Kazakh Pterodactyl-1 at KADEX 2016 shows that China is making inroads into Central Asia, too.
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