Wing Loong-3 is larger in size and has enhanced performance features compared to its predecessor, the Wing Loong II.
China is emerging as a leading defense contractor in all fields. At Airshow China 2022, a new UAV was unveiled, the Wing Loong-3, which is the next version of the medium-altitude long-endurance UAV series. Overall, the Wing Loong-3 is larger in size and has enhanced performance features compared to its predecessor, the Wing Loong II.
According to Chinese media, Wing Loong-3 has a length of 12.2 m, a height of 4.3 m and a wingspan of 24 m. The design is similar to its predecessor with a slim fuselage incorporating a protruding nose, a tricycle undercarriage, a V-shaped tail assembly incorporating ruddervators, and a rear-mounted engine driving a three-bladed pusher propeller.
According to the revealed images, Wing Loong-3 has four hard points under each wing, and one hardpoint on centreline of fuselage. It has greater payload capacity and can fly a longer distance. It can carry PL-10E air-to-air missiles which have a firing range of 24 km, BA-7 anti-tank missiles, AG-300/M air-to-ground missiles, glide bombs, and, presumably, electronic warfare systems, and radio intelligence.
Designed for reconnaissance and assault missions, the Wing Loong 3 can carry a variety of reconnaissance, laser irradiation, electronic countermeasures equipment, and small air-to-ground strike weapons. The electro-optical payload pod, fitted under the forward section of the fuselage, is integrated with daylight and infrared cameras and sensors to collect surveillance and targeting data in both day and night conditions. It can be used for surveillance, reconnaissance, ground attack and other tasks, as well as anti-terrorism and border patrol.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Wing Loong-3 is the first in the family to reach intercontinental range while equipped for aerial self-defence. The UAV can fly a maximum range of 10,000km at medium altitude. Its larger wingspan allows it to fly long range while carrying heavy loads. In theory, Wing Loong 3 has a maximum take-off weight of 6,200 kg, a payload capacity of 2,300 kg, and flight autonomy of 40 hours.
Footage of the Wing Loong-3 on display in Zhuhai shows it is equipped with the PL-10E fourth-generation air-to-air strike missile, which Chinese analysts deem a significant improvement on the Wing Loong-1 and 2 models. Carrying PL-10E missiles meant the Wing Loong-3 could hit targets such as helicopters and UAVs, which “gives it a self-defence capability and improved its survivability”.
The manufacturer, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic), said it is working to establish a mass production capacity. Wing Loong series UAVs have been exported to at least 11 countries, including in Africa and the Middle East, and have reportedly played an active role in conflicts such as the Libyan civil war.