Chinese CH-4B Drone Spotted Over Balochistan; Reports Indicate Pakistan Army Is Using Them To Crush Rebellion

Drawing lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war that saw a surge in drone warfare, Pakistan has become the latest state to press its Chinese-origin combat CH-4B drones to hunt Baloch rebels.

Earlier this month, Pakistan allegedly conducted a massive military offensive against Baloch rebels in the Bolan region by deploying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fighter jets, and Gunship helicopters, along with SSG Commandos, according to Balochistan Post-English.

According to reports, the Pakistani Army deployed jets against Baloch nationalists in the highlands of Bolan in Balochistan.

The Pakistani military operations were resisted by the Baloch militias, which, in turn, killed two SSG Commandos. EurAsian Times could not independently verify the number of Pakistani commandos killed by the rebels.

While the Pakistani Army has used fighter jets and armed helicopters against Baloch rebels for several years, the use of combat UAVs is new and is continuously increasing. The Balochistan Post-English tweeted that China and Turkey have supplied various models of combat UAVs to Pakistan.

According to the information on the microblogging site Twitter and Pakistan-based defense blogs, Chinese CH-4B UAVs were spotted over Bolan, Balochistan, where the rebels killed two SSG Commandos.

The Pakistani military is accused by the people of Balochistan of the excesses committed against them and has intensified its armed assault in recent times.

According to a recent report of The Balochistan Post, the Human Rights Council of Balochistan received 41 cases of enforced disappearance and thirty cases of extrajudicial executions in Balochistan during October 2022.

Pakistan received five Cai Hong 4 (Rainbow 4, or CH-4) multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs from China in January 2021. At the time, it was not revealed which variant of the CH-4 drone was acquired by Islamabad.

However, later reports suggested it was the CH-4B variant.

A Chinese PLA detachment based in Pasni, Gwadar, allegedly helps the Pakistani military operate these CH-4 drones. The Pakistan military has a naval air station at Pasni known as PNS Makran. China is developing the Port of Gwadar under the China-Pakistan Economic Agreement (CPEC), a premise for deploying PLA troops in the region.

China pursues a “strategic strongpoint” concept, whereby its military can use strategically located foreign ports with terminals and commercial zones run by Chinese companies.

This makes it plausible that the PLA detachment would assist the Pakistani troops in operating the CH-4B. However, we could not independently corroborate this notion, and Pakistani netizens dismissed it as propaganda.

That being said, Pakistan’s use of combat drones against Baloch insurgents is yet another example of militaries turning to drones for combat after watching the deployment of UAVs in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The conflict has led to a proliferation of drones. Pakistan is slated to receive Bayraktar Akinci and TB2 drones from its ally Turkey.

CH-4 Drones Pakistan China
CH-4 Drones

CH-4B Drones

The ALIT and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)-developed CH-4 family of multirole MALE UAVs features a wide range of sensor options.

The People’s Liberation Army of China is known to use two variants: the standard CH-4A, which has a flight endurance of 30 hours and is primarily designed for reconnaissance missions, and the strike-capable CH-4B, which can carry a 345-kilogram weapon payload but has a shorter flight endurance of 14 hours. The Pakistani Army reportedly uses the CH-4B Strike variant.

Pakistan’s CH-4 drones were spotted at a Pakistani airbase close to India’s border in August 2021, as reported by EurAsian Times. Satellite imagery shared by an open-source intelligence showed four CH-4 combat drones at the Bahawalpur airbase in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The drone has attracted many customers worldwide. Just a day before the CH-4B was spotted over Balochistan, Chinese state media Global Times reported a record demand for the CH-4 drone in the international market.

Citing the manufacturer China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the report said it had sold over 200 units of CH-4 drones to international customers.

CH-4B Armed Drones (via Twitter)

The CH-4 has an 18-meter wingspan, a 1.3-ton take-off weight, and a 350-kilogram payload. The UAV can carry weapons, including Lan Jian 7 (Blue Arrow 7) laser-guided air-to-surface missiles, TG100 laser/INS/GPS-guided bombs, and the AR-1/HJ-10 anti-tank missile—the Chinese version of the Hellfire missile.

It has a weapon that can be fired from a distance of up to 5,000 meters and is made explicitly for high-altitude operations over land and water. The UAV also features a retractable electro-optical sensor turret and a data link to the ground control station.

In addition, the CH-4 has a contemporary, two-person control station that allows for both line-of-sight and satellite communications, according to Popular Science. According to military watchers, this Chinese drone resembles the American MQ-9 Reaper.