Global Industries Defense Solution (GIDS), Pakistan’s state-owned conglomerate based in Rawalpindi, has revealed details on a newly developed Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), based on Shahpar-II Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone that was originally designed for reconnaissance role. The unveiling commenced on Day 1 of Egypt Defence Expo 2021, scheduled from November 29 to December 2.
Profile on the drone’s combat abilities along with performance characteristics are also released in public domain, to promote the state’s achievement in acquiring multiple indigenous solutions as well as to pitch the platform for export.
The airframe derives the basic performance abilities from the original airframe. It has a flight duration of 14 hours for a reconnaissance mission, and 7 hours for combat missions. The drone has a service ceiling of 20,000 feet for surveillance, and 18,000 for combat and the airframe incorporates composite material, reducing the radar signature while making the airframe lighter as well. Auto take-off and landing, Satellite Communication (SATCOM) and real-time data link further bolster its autonomous operational capabilities.
“Shahpar-II is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft with armed capability. It has modular airframe structural design comprising of advanced composite and metallic hybrid structure with improved aerodynamic design,” stated the official brochure.
Several combat solutions are integrated on the platform to offer loitering ability and precision during strike missions against multiple types of ground targets. The system will reportedly carry two “Burq” missiles as primary armament. A semi-active laser-guided missile, Burq is a further development of the already existing “Barq” missile, and will avail greater accuracy and range than its predecessor. The Zumr-II Electro-Optical (EO) turret will be utilized for surveillance and targeting while payloads for additional Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Communication Intelligence (COMINT) can be mounted as well.
In 2013, National Engineering & Scientific Commission (NESCOM), another entity based in Pakistan designed and developed the “Burraq” drone, claimed to be the first combat drone developed by Pakistan. With the introduction of new Shahpar-II, Islamabad now boasts two indigenously developed products in the family of UCAVs. They will complement the present fleet of UAV in service with Pakistan Air Force that also includes units from Italy and China. During several Counter-Insurgency (COIN) operations, drones have been widely utilized by the forces to conduct precision strikes without risking the lives of friendly units.
With a successful history of drone development and operationalization, Pakistan is also seeking customers in global market and offering its new drones at comparatively lower price than the competitors in the west. Countries in Africa are reportedly looking at the platform as a capable solution for unmanned combat operations. The critics state that the development of both the UAVs show direct connection with Chinese aerospace industries due to undeniable design similarities. Appearing in the same size and structural features as that of a CAIC CH-3, Buraq always remained in controversy as just a locally produced variant of CH-3 instead of a product developed “indigenously” by Pakistan. The new Shahpar-II, though has a larger airframe, still looks exactly as same as CH-3, rebuking maufacturer’s claim of “indigenous” development.