Chinese Cheap and Lethal Drones Flying in Middle East

The footage is grainy, but detailed enough to see the target: a silver pickup is parked among sand berms, while three figures stand nearby. Not more than a second later, the vehicle explodes in fire and smoke, sending dust, metal shards and bodies flying across the desert.

The video of the attack in Samara was released by the Iraqi defence ministry, which for effect had added an orchestral score to the destruction of houses, vehicles and alleged Islamic State fighters.

But the weapon system used was not American. It was China’s new hit product: the CH-4 Caihong, or “Rainbow”, drone.

The Middle East is no stranger to drones flown by the US, which have killed thousands of people over the last decade.

But more nations are entering the game thanks to a new player in the market: Chinese manufacturers offering cheap hardware with a no-questions-asked sales policy.

China has been aggressively marketing the CH-4, which bears a striking resemblance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and has similar capabilities.

Where the US has refused sales, China has stepped in: Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are now believed to operate variants of Chinese armed drones.

Unlike the US, China has not signed the international Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, meaning it has fewer restrictions on the sale of drone technology.

The US has attempted to maintain its drone advantage by limiting sales. China has no such qualms.

And while a US Reaper costs up to $30m each, some armed Chinese drones sell for as little as $1m.

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