Satellite imagery acquired by Maxar reveals that Egypt has deployed the Wing Loong I unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Dakhla airport near Mut, New Valley Governorate. Imagery first captured the UAV parked outside of a new hangar in October 2017. Dakhla is the third operational location with which the platform has been associated.
A review of imagery shows that the airfield was expanded to support the UAVs between 2015 – 2017. During that period, workers constructed a new parking ramp, four aircraft hangars, and a weapons storage area. Recent commercial imagery acquired in 2019 continues to show the UAVs operating from the airport.
The Wing Loong I, developed by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. It’s powered by 100-hp ROTAX 914 push-propeller engine and is capable of carrying up to a 200-kg payload, including the 50-kg Blue Arrow-7 missile and other PGMs. In October 2018, Egypt released handheld video of the platform for the Air Force’s 45th anniversary where it appeared armed with the Blue Arrow-7.
Egypt along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remain the only operators in the region. Egypt reportedly ordered the more capable Wing Loong II in December 2018, joining Saudi Arabia as a future operator. The UAE already operates the Wing Loong II and has used the larger variant in the conflict in Yemen.