China’s mysterious disappearing UAV

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Friends, we have an alarming enigma to solve!

It’s the case of the disappearing Chinese UAV, which mysteriously vanished from the Singapore Airshow. In fact, it was more than a UAV because it was heavily armed with missiles. Indeed, it was no less than the Wing Loong II, China’s latest-generation UCAV that was being exhibited for the first time outside China.

Was it stolen? Was it hijacked? Or was it even sold? How could such a lethal weapon disappear from security-conscious Singapore?

Well, after some sleuth work, Quill or Capture got to the bottom of the case…

First off, let me say we’re talking of a scale model rather than an actual UCAV. The story is nonetheless informative as far as Chinese proclivities at defence shows go.

Here’s the precis of a conversation I had with an official at the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) booth on the second day of the Singapore Airshow.

‘You only have one UAV model on display this year?’ I innocently enquired.

‘Yes,’ was the response.

‘I thought you had two UAV models here,’ I asked.

‘No, we only have one.’

‘Didn’t you have two models yesterday?’

‘No,’ came the assured reply.

‘That’s interesting, because my colleague took a photo of two UAVs on your display yesterday,’ as I went for the jugular.

The Chinese representative paused less than a heartbeat, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about that.’

Is it an obtuse marketing ploy to garner interest? I think not. It’s more a routine case of obfuscation on the part of Chinese companies.

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It’s unclear why Chinese companies have a tendency to show products at the start of a defence exhibition and then quickly remove them. It’s a pattern that recurs frequently. However, it’s beyond comprehension as to why Chinese manufacturers routinely and blatantly lie when talking to media.

One has to wonder whether Chinese companies treat its customers the same way.

Improvements are occurring as Chinese manufacturers get used to operating on the international stage. Whereas companies used to rarely offer details or data on equipment it was promoting at defence exhibitions, it now usually supplies brochures. This is definitely progress. Instead of a dismissive shrug, representatives may now invite journalists to take away a handful of brochures to study for themselves.

Yes, there have been improvements, but Chinese weapon manufacturers remain opaque. Any discussion on whether the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may be using the same weapon system is quickly extinguished.

So where is the Wing Loong II UCAV model now? Obviously it’s safely locked away until the opening day of the next air show somewhere on the globe. But you’ll need to be quick!

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