Saudi Arabia’s Embrace of Wing Loong-10 Highlights Shifting Dynamics in Arms Trade

Saudi Arabia, which had purchased over 300 Wing Loong-2 drones, is now eyeing the Wing Loong-10.

According to reports from multiple media outlets including “Reference News,” China has achieved remarkable success in the defense exhibition in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector.

According to foreign media reports, as claimed by numerous insiders, Saudi Arabia, equipped with over 300 Wing Loong-2 drones, is highly interested in China’s Wing Loong-10B. This interest stems from the fact that this new UAV model differs significantly from the previous Wing Loong drones. While the previous models were equipped with turboprop engines and had advanced aerodynamic layouts and strike capabilities, the margin of advancement was not significant.

Based on information provided by Saudi Arabia, the Wing Loong-10 is currently the only model in the Wing Loong series to use a turbojet engine, marking a qualitative change from turboprop engines. Compared to turboprop engines, the use of turbojet engines will lead to a significant improvement in maneuverability, strike range, and combat capabilities, with the ability to conduct 32-hour patrols when carrying a full complement of weapons and equipment.

The Saudis argue that while the US provides F-15 fighter jets at exorbitant prices, they can only stay airborne for a few hours, whereas the Wing Loong drones, equipped with similar weaponry, can fly for over 30 hours. Whether for various control operations in the vicinity or future unmanned combat in the region, these weapon systems can be effective. The key point is that the prices of weapons and equipment exported by China to this region are very reasonable.

Saudi Arabia may have abundant funds, but they also calculate costs. Many countries export weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia at excessively high prices and with inferior performance. For example, the US modified the F-15E and designated it as a special version for Saudi Arabia, yet its price is almost higher than that of the F-22.

After the visit of major Saudi leaders to the United States, President Trump put up a large blackboard, each item listed with pictures and prices, claiming that if they didn’t buy all these things, they shouldn’t expect the US to provide protection. However, China isn’t as greedy as the US. China releases products based on the ideas and needs of users, it’s a fair deal; if you want to buy, buy it, if not, it’s okay, the Wing Loong-2 didn’t beg you to buy it, but hundreds were still bought, and production lines were set up.

Now with a new engine, there’s progress and development in terms of range and radius capabilities. From the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the present, and the Israel-Palestine conflict to the present, the use of UAVs and large UAVs in combat has been elevated to a very high level, and Saudi Arabia urgently needs this capability.

During this international weapons and equipment exhibition, more than 70 Chinese exhibitors showcased their weapons and equipment in the Middle East, forming a Chinese version of the “full table of Chinese delicacies.” Saudi Arabia will definitely be interested in the Wing Loong-10B from China after the engine replacement. The Wing Loong-2 has been used very effectively in localized combat operations in the vicinity.

Now, with the Wing Loong-10B boasting a new appearance, new engine configuration, improved weapon systems, and astonishing endurance and weapon-carrying capabilities, its striking effect will turn Saudi Arabia into a major UAV power in the Middle East in a short time.

Especially since Saudi Arabia officially claims that in the future, 50% of its weapons and equipment will be domestically produced, they don’t want to import Western weapons and equipment like before, regardless of their quality or usability, and they don’t want to equate buying equipment with buying protection as they used to.

Now, they believe that having a lot of money also requires enhancing innovation capabilities, at least to break free from the foreign “protection” with quotation marks, which is crucial for Saudi Arabia. Rapidly expanding economic foundations and achieving the domestication of equipment technology are the key points.

The Wing Loong-10B fully meets Saudi Arabia’s requirements in terms of capabilities, price, and structural technology. Saudi Arabia’s purchase of the Wing Loong-10B this time is expected to replicate the status of the previous Wing Loong-2 purchase, not only buying aircraft, ammunition, and technology but also buying production lines and the associated upgrade permissions.

The security products provided by the Wing Loong-10B to Saudi Arabia will play an important role in the Middle East. (Du Wenlong)

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