Now, even the Chinese are embarrassed about their substandard drones sold to various countries, especially the Muslim countries.
The billion-dollar market in West Asia, Africa and Central Asian Republics is under threat from noises of protest coming from China’s once-steady clients like the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO). China is now keen on keeping a tight lid on its defective Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) sold to Oman. Public airing of continuing mechanical and software troubles with Chinese drones could seriously hit its defence export market in West Asia, Africa, Pakistan, Myanmar and several other countries.
So anxious has China been with negative reports coming in from these countries that it has promised to replace defective gyroscopes on drones with new equipment by June 2023. The Oman air force, on the other hand, is equally worried about the operational efficiency of such defective drones. These faulty drones were supplied by Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co.,Ltd. (ALIT & Co), a high-profile division of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The Oman contract has created more problems for the Chinese than others. The Omanese have been writing to the Chinese firms consistently to find a viable solution to the problem of failures of vertical gyroscopes and other systematic failures. In January this year, the Omanese side had requested the Chinese firm to come clean on the low quality of the product, poor quality spare parts and abysmal after-sales service. The Omanese air force authorities, referring to the accident of one of the drones in January 2023, said the drones showed substandard manufacturing and bad quality of equipment and spares. Faulty gyroscopes have caused most of the problems from the Royal Air Force of Oman. Gyroscopes balance the drone in flight. Even a small defect in the gyroscope could seriously undermine the operational efficiency of the drone.
After several requests, the Chinese firm had replaced the gyroscopes but problems cropped up within eight hours after take-off. Given the persistence of Omani authorities, the Chinese firm had gone on backfoot, requesting to keep the matter out of public domain and sort out the issues in confidence since news of faulty drones would seriously undermine the Chinese export market. The Chinese firm has accepted in writing that the drones indeed had problems with defective equipment and spares and the manufacturers could not be replaced so easily. The admission underlines the shoddy manner in which the Chinese firm had been dealing with service inspections and replacements.
Since the Chinese firm is not keen on creating a rift with its customer-base in the Muslim countries, it has even gone to the extent of promising to replace the gyroscope with Micro Electro Mechanical System on the drones by June 2023.
Pakistan too has been facing recurring problems in the drones imported from China in 2020. When one of the drones met with an accident, China rebutted that it was the fault of the Pakistani pilot and there was no problem with the machine as such. But when Pakistan expressed its interest in buying anti-submarine equipment, the Chinese came up with proposals to “maintain customer relations“. The Chinese are now finding it difficult to push through substandard defence equipment to `friendly` countries.