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Wing Loong I-D MALE UAV completes maiden flight.

| 2018

The lightweight fuselage gives the new Wing Loong I-D drone a significant boost in operating endurance, payload and service ceiling Chinese experts noted on Monday after China's first multi-purpose drone for export that uses a composite material structure successfully completed its maiden flight.

AVIC launches I D version of Wing Loong UAS at AirShow China 2018 Zhuhai 925 001 Wing Loong I-D UAV at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai

As an advanced variant of the Wing Loong I, the Wing Loong I-D provides another cost-efficient choice for potential buyers on the international market compared to similar products, which also come mainly from China, Chinese military experts said.

The drone took off for the first time at an undisclosed airport in western China on Sunday afternoon. It landed safely after a 30-minute flight, the drone's manufacturer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said in a statement released on Sunday on its WeChat account.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Monday that the utilization of the technology indicates China has made a breakthrough in making large structures with composite material, because an all-composite material fuselage has to be processed in one go and no joint is allowed, which is different and more difficult than previously used technology.

Loaded with a high-definition electro-optical pod and a synthetic aperture radar, the Wing Loong I-D is capable of carrying out missions including intelligence acquisition, surveillance, reconnaissance, anti-terrorist operation, border patrol and disaster evaluation, the statement said.

It also has four weapon stations under its wings capable of carrying more than a dozen types of precision strike weapons that are laser-guided or satellite-guided, AVIC said in the statement.

Based on matured technology since the development of the previous Wing Loong I, the Wing Loong I-D possesses several changes to meet demands from users, according to the statement.

The most noticeable change is its all-composite material design, making the Wing Loong I-D China's first drone to make use of such a technology, the company said.

"Composite material is very light and can significantly decrease the weight of the drone, enabling it to carry more fuel and weapons," Wei said, noting that it can also make the drone more difficult to be spotted by hostile radar, increasing the drone's survivability.

AVIC also optimized the drone's aerodynamic design and installed in the drone a new engine with greater power, the company said.

All of these changes make the Wing Loong I-D enjoy a significant performance boost in takeoff weight, operating endurance, amount of payload and service ceiling, according to the statement.

The Wing Loong I-D is expected to be able to continuously fly for 35 hours and carry up to 400 kilograms of external payload, while the original Wing Loong I only has an endurance of about 20 hours and can carry 100 kilograms of external payload, Jane's Defence Weekly reported.

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