China targets GOP lawmaker with sanctions over Taiwan as tensions soar
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A leaked U.S. military assessment claims that the Chinese military could soon deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound, according to a report.
The Washington Post first reported about the leaked assessment into China’s ability to conduct surveillance operations on Tuesday.
The secret assessment by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency indicated technological advances made by the Chinese military could help it target U.S. warships by Taiwan and military bases in the region, according to the Post. The document included satellite imagery dated Aug. 9 over the Lu’an (Liu’an) Airfield, in Dushan County, showing two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones. The air base sits in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai.
Part of a cutting-edge surveillance system, the drones could help China gather real-time mapping data to inform strategy or carry out future missile strikes, the Post says.
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A drone seen during a parade on the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square in 2019. A leaked U.S. assessment reveals Chinese military is preparing a supersonic spy drone unit. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
The assessment, which the Post says it obtained from a trove of images of classified files posted on Discord by a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, reportedly says the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “almost certainly” established its first unmanned aerial vehicle unit at the base, which falls under the Eastern Theater Command, the Chinese military branch responsible for enforcing Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the island of Taiwan.
Other leaked documents supported the existence of additional Chinese spy balloons and assessed that Taiwan is ill-prepared to prevent early Chinese air superiority during an invasion.
The assessment from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency also reportedly showed possible flight paths for the drone as well as for the twin-engine H6-M Badger bomber used to launch it. “After taking off from its home air base, the warplane would fly to just off China’s east coast before releasing the stealthy drone, which could then enter Taiwanese or South Korean airspace at a height of 100,000 feet and fly three times the speed of sound. The document does not detail how the drone is propelled but says ‘engine features are primarily associated with rocket fuel,’” according to the Post.
A military vehicle carrying a WZ-8 supersonic reconnaissance drone takes part a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Post noted how the WZ-8 drones were first introduced publicly in 2019, when two of the jet-black aircraft were paraded past Tiananmen Square during celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party-run People’s Republic of China, though few analysts considered them fully operational at the time.
The document also reportedly includes a map of projected routes, labeled “not necessarily authoritative,” suggesting ways the drone’s “Electro-optical” cameras and sensors could gather intelligence on Taiwan’s main island and the western side of South Korea including Seoul. Synthetic aperture radar could allow it to map territory at night and during foggy weather.
Fox News Digital reached out to the Department of Defense for comment regarding the newly reported assessment.
A drone is displayed at a Chinese military parade in 2019. The Washington Post reported that Chinese military is readying a supersonic drone unit. (Simon Song/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)
Chi Li-pin, director of the aeronautical systems research division at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan’s military-run weapons developer, told the Post the Chinese drones will not primarily be used against Taiwan, but instead against the United States and its military bases in the Pacific.
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“It’s a weapon for anti-access and area denial,” he said. “It is difficult to detect and intercept. The existing U.S. air-to-air weapons aren’t good enough.”
Dean Cheng, a nonresident senior fellow with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, told the Post the disclosure reveals China is developing a range of technologies that could blind the United States from the region and the entire Indo-Pacific, including South Korea, Japan and India, “has to worry about it.” “Individually, none of these things are game-changers,” he said. “Taken together, we’re looking at a PLA that is developing a reconnaissance strike complex: Find the enemy, hit the enemy, kill the enemy.”
Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @danimwallace.