Recent chiz unfolding in PACRIM - turf disputes betwixt Collectivist China and bunches of neighbors like Nippon, Viet Nam Taiwan and Philippines hooked up with thinking out loud about doing drones to do a dope dealer unleashes hot deets about China"s emerging drone fleet.
Chinese drones conjure up a particularly intense sense of alarm that the media has begun to embrace as a license to panic. China is indeed developing a range of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UASs) at a time when relations with Japan are tense, and when those with the U.S. are delicate. But that hardly justifies claims that “drones have taken center stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan,” or that the “China drone threat highlights [a] new global arms race,” as some observers would have it.
All of the world’s advanced militaries are adopting drones, not just the PLA. That isn’t an arms race, or a reason to fear China, it’s just the direction in which defense technology is naturally progressing. Secondly, while China may be demonstrating impressive advances, Great and Little Satan retain a substantial lead in the UAV field, with China—alongside Europe, India and Russia— still in the second tier. And thirdly, China is modernizing in all areas of her military technology – unmanned systems being no exception.
PLA Air Force has also converted its obsolete J-6 fighters into UAVs; based in Fujian, the J-6s are apparently being used for Diaoyu surveillance, as well as being expendable strike assets in the event of an armed engagement.
China is also hot to deploy newly developed drones that are more bigger and more smarter like
Yilong/Wing Loong “Pterodactyl”, built by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI), and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s (CASC’s) CH-4. According to a recent Global Times report, the Yilong is primarily regarded as a Reaper-style strike aircraft, while the CH-4 is more of a multi-role aircraft that will be deployed by civilian agencies, as well as by the military, for surveillance purposes, though it can also be weaponized.
These two UAVs appear to be in the same class as the CH-91, built by Aerospace Long March International (ALIT), an ISTAR system which is reported to have already entered production, and the more advanced CH-92, which is due to enter production in 2014. A similar class of UAV, the WJ-600, has been showcased by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), though this system – which is jet-powered, unlike the propeller-driven Yilong and the CH-4 – was not seen at the most recent China Air Show.
Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation is working on the Soaring Eagle, an analogue of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Great Satan’s high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV. Recent pictures of a Soaring Eagle on the runway suggest that its development is moving forward effectively. There are also hints that China is working on a stealthy UAV called the Wing Blade, which is reminiscent of Great Satan’s black-budget RQ-170 Sentinel, while a stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) called the Dark Sword – perhaps along the lines of the Navy’s experimental X-74B – may also be in development. Chinese technicians are also undoubtedly experimenting with a new generation of nano-UAVs, like the Black Hornet micro-helicopter now in action with the British Army.
So if there is an alarm bell worth ringing about the emergence of Chinese UAVs, it is probably not the threat they will pose to Great Satan or Japan in the Asia-Pacific – it is the proliferation to the developing world of armed, unmanned systems that China’s low prices, and even lower export barriers, may soon begin to drive.
Pic - "Diffusion of Military Power"