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Taiwanese vs. Chinese Drones – Who Comes Out on Top? – Part 1

Daniel Kim Views  

Chinese WZ-7 capable of surveillance and attack
East Sea Reconnaissance Route Acquisition
Information Transmission to Strategic Forces North Korea
Collecting information before and after Taiwan’s MQ-9B war
Unmanned reconnaissance aircraft major asymmetric power

軍 감시정찰…대만 무인정찰기 vs 중국 무인정찰기, 누가 더 쌔나[이현호 기자의 밀리터리!톡]
The WZ-7 high-altitude long-duration unmanned reconnaissance aircraft was first introduced at the Zhu Hai Air Show. AFP – Yonhap News

On March 26, an unfamiliar aircraft appeared in the East Sea, prompting emergency takeoffs from Korean and Japanese fighter jets. An unmanned Chinese reconnaissance aircraft intruded into the East Sea from the direction of North Korea’s Hamgyong Province. This unmanned reconnaissance aircraft was none other than the Chinese version of the Global Hawk, the WZ-7.

The WZ-7 is the latest high-altitude, long-duration unmanned reconnaissance aircraft of the Chinese Air Force. It’s referred to as the Chinese version of the Global Hawk. Although smaller than the American Global Hawk, it’s equipped with a high-performance engine modified from a fighter jet engine. Thus making it faster and capable of flying a whopping 4,349 miles (7000 km). It is considered a drone specialized for long-range reconnaissance missions.

Korean and Japanese media reported the news of the unmanned Chinese reconnaissance aircraft’s flight over the East Sea, but most did not consider it a big deal. The flight course of the WZ-7 was not near the airspace of both countries, and given the circumstances at the time, there was little room to perceive it as a provocation. So, the incident was largely dismissed.

However, inside the military bases, it was reported that they were busy figuring out where the WZ-7 took off from, what route it flew, what high-performance weapons it was equipped with, and what mission the Chinese military assigned.

The WZ-7, operational since 2018, lacks detailed information on its sensor capabilities from China. However, its large radome on the underside and the presence of what seems to be an electro-optical camera at the front suggest its capacity for precise radar and optical reconnaissance missions. Consequently, military authorities exercise caution when the aircraft enters their airspace.

The WZ-7 is an advanced unmanned aircraft with surveillance and attack capabilities, boasting over 10 hours of continuous flight time and a flight altitude of around 65,617 feet (20,000 m). Its high altitude makes it challenging to intercept using Patriot missiles. China frequently employs the WZ-7 during military operations targeting Taiwan due to these impressive capabilities.

軍 감시정찰…대만 무인정찰기 vs 중국 무인정찰기, 누가 더 쌔나[이현호 기자의 밀리터리!톡]
A view of the Chinese military’s WZ-7 reconnaissance drone flying over the East Sea. Photo provided by Japan’s Ministry of Defense

China operates approximately 20 WZ-7 unmanned reconnaissance aircraft dispersed across the Northern, Western, and Southern Theaters. The aircraft involved in the recent reconnaissance mission belongs to the 48th Regiment of the 16th Special Aircraft Division, stationed at the Yishun base near Jilin’s Siping City. Given China’s lack of direct coastline access to the East Sea, the WZ-7 had to traverse North Korean airspace to reach its destination. This suggests a coordinated operation between China and North Korea rather than a solo mission by China alone. Sensitivity from military authorities in Korea and Japan stems from this coordinated approach.

In June 2021, North Korea, at an expanded military meeting of the Central Military Commission, decided to reorganize its strategic forces to support China’s anti-US stance. This was followed by tactical nuclear training exercises in March 2023, aimed at assessing the performance readiness of the reorganized forces. Notably, the training focused solely on strike capabilities, with no mention of detecting and tracking US strategic assets in distant sea areas. A few months later, North Korea unveiled the New Star-4, a long-range target acquisition unmanned reconnaissance aircraft similar to China’s WZ-7, garnering international attention.

There is speculation that external technology may have been utilized in developing the New Star-4 drone. Drone development started before significant military exchanges between North Korea and Russia. Military analysts suggest that China might have assisted North Korea with the necessary technology for producing the New Star-4.

To Read Part 2…
To Read Part 3…

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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