23 November 2010

China's Unsettling Fleet of New Drones a Wake-Up Call for The West (video)

Western defense experts surprised to see 25+ new Chinese drones on display at Air Show China 2010

WJ-600 jet-powered drone

And just what does that say for our military intelligence, anyway...

China is ramping up production of unmanned aerial vehicles in an apparent bid to catch up with the U.S. and Israel in developing technology that is considered the future of military aviation. 

Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week's Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city. It was a record number for a country that unveiled its first concept UAVs at the same air show only four years ago, and put a handful on display at the last one in 2008. 

The apparent progress in UAVs is a stark sign of China's ambition to upgrade its massive military as its global political and economic clout grows. The U.S. and Israel are currently the world leaders in developing such pilotless drones, which have played a major role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which analysts say could one day replace the fighter jet. 

This year's models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could—in theory—fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Exhibitors didn't give precise details of which Chinese drones were fully operational, although one confirmed that the People's Liberation Army, or PLA, had deployed at least two propeller-powered reconnaissance UAVs, which featured in last year's 60th National Day parade. 

But the large number of UAVs on display illustrates clearly that China is investing considerable time and money to develop drone technology, and is actively promoting its products on the international market...

Many are quick to always point-out how "far behind" the Chinese are in numerous areas... but with their focus on space travel and drone aircraft we underestimate them at our peril.  

Proliferation is also a growing concern... if China can produce defense technology comparable to the best in the west with their low-cost export model they could wreak havoc upon not only our industries but any leverage we retain in limiting the spread of high-tech weaponry in these perilous times...

The Buzz on China's Drones: Still behind the U.S. and Israel, China is starting to catch up: 

Jet Drone: The WJ600 from China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. has several missiles and a jet engine and is the Chinese drone of greatest potential concern to the U.S. 

Drone in Space: China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp., one of the main contractors in China's space program, displayed an attack drone, complete with air-to-ground missiles. 

Largest Drone: ASN Technology's ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV, the largest drone at the show, carries air-to ground missiles and uses a satellite link to find targets over a radius of 2,000 kilometers 1,250 miles. 

Avian Drone:The ASN-211, a model under development, is about the size of a large duck and has flapping wings. It is designed for reconnaissance behind enemy lines. -WSJ

I'm sure Iran would like to get their paws on some of these... better hurry up, they're already within Israeli drones' range -here-