You Get What You Pay for with China's CH-4 Drones

David Axe

Key point: U.S. drones are better made and customers are learning the hard way that they are worth the higher price.

China’s CH-4 killer drone appears to be falling out of favor with some of its major operators.

The Iraqi air force is down to just one operational CH-4 out of a fleet of around 10, according to an August 2019 report from the U.S. inspector-general.

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led operation targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, told the inspector-general that maintenance problems have grounded most of the Iraqi CH-4s.

The CH-4 is roughly similar to the U.S.-made MQ-1 Predator. The Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle, which is remotely-controlled via satellite and can carry a variety of missiles, briefly was popular among Middle East militaries that balked at the cost, politics and paperwork associated with acquiring armed drones from the United States.

But the Chinese drones seem to be going out of style. The Jordanian air force in June 2019 put up for sale its own six CH-4s.

It’s unclear why Amman is trying to get rid of its CH-4s just three years after acquiring them. But it’s possible the divestment is related to Jordan’s ongoing efforts to source Predator-style drones from the United States.

Jordan bought the missile-armed CH-4s around 2016 after the administration of U.S. president Barack Obama rejected Amman’s request for MQ-1s.

General Atomics also makes the larger MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The Jordanian air force’s No. 9 Squadron operated the Chinese-made drones. The same unit operates the air force’s other unmanned aerial vehicle, including Schiebel S-100 Camcopters and Leonardo Falcos.

It wasn’t until May 2018 that the Jordanian air force displayed a CH-4 in public.

“Marketed by Aerospace Long-March International Trade, the CH-4B has found a good market here in the Middle East, in part due to the reluctance of U.S. authorities to sell armed UAVs to their allies in the region,” Al-Monitor reported.

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