Chinese war machines are betting the future on drones


News analysis

A flock of drones is flying in the night sky of the Pacific Ocean.

Surrounded by darkness and less than 100 miles from the California coastline, they go in groups of four and six and stalk US Navy ships. They circle the bow of the ship and gather the intelligence to deliver it to the faceless captain.

They are comparable to the speed of naval vessels, have poor visibility for four hours at a time, and fly unimpeded. The crew of the wary ship does not know where they came from or what their purpose is.

This isn’t the story of an up-and-coming spy thriller, but a series of real-life events in July 2019.

The chilling encounter alerted the entire Navy, resulting in a research device consisting of elements from the US Navy, the Coast Guard, and the FBI. Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commander of the Pacific Fleet were always up to date on the situation.

“If the drone wasn’t operated by the U.S. military, these incidents represent a very serious security breach,” said one investigative report. base In the ship log.

Still, the nature of the drones, where they came from, and who deployed them The remaining A mystery for over two years.

However, a new research report published by The Drive in June. Hut It sheds light on a total of at least eight encounters involving several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), formerly simply called UFOs in the press.

This report is based on newly obtained Navy material through multiple requests from the Information Disclosure Act, identifying the launch point of the drone as a private bulk carrier operating in the region at the time. The ship, the MV Bass Strait, is owned and operated by the Pacific Voyage flagged from Hong Kong.

“The Navy has assessed that commercial cargo ships are likely to be using drones to monitor Navy vessels,” the report said. During the first operational voyage in history, the ship was previously unknown in March and April 2019, including an “information gathering operation” targeting USS Zumwalt, America’s most advanced carrier-based ship. It may have been related to the incident.

“Active surveillance of major naval assets takes place in areas where they train and employ the most sensitive systems, often close to the American coast,” the report said. I am saying.

Epoch Times Photo
The model of the FL-71 drone is on display at the China Defense Information Equipment and Technology Exhibition held in Beijing on June 18, 2019. (Wang Zhao / AFP via Getty Images)

China’s growing drone force

It’s too early to say exactly what connections the Bass Strait, Pacific Voyage, and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) crews share. Nonetheless, the incident emphasizes the central role that drones should play in the next phase of modern warfare and how drones are already shaping the battlefield and information gathering process.

It happens that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Big bet About the drone war. For over a decade, Regime has invested heavily in everything from cheap, consumable commercial quadcopters to resource-intensive, high-altitude, durable drones.

In fact, the CCP and its military arm, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), have embarked on numerous UAV projects since the early 2000s. However, the first large-scale Chinese-made stealth drone first appeared during the term of CCP leader Xi Jinping.

probably built From data obtained from Iranians capture Among the advanced American drones of 2011, China’s “Sharp Sword” was built with the support of foreign technology gathered as part of the administration’s comprehensive technology theft program, many advanced It was just the first of the UAVs.

Since then, the Chinese Communist Party has funded dozens of UAVs using a number of state-owned enterprises building the administration’s space and missile technologies. From large combat drones like the Sharp Sword to smaller quadcopter drones like those found near California, to rocket-driven supersonic vehicles aimed at running through the sky and collecting target information, CCP Buy everything related to drones.

In addition, the CCP has already built drone functions across a range of military assets, deploying these functions in some of the world’s most disputed regions.

Fujian, the third and latest aircraft carrier in China Be expected Host various drones. Its electromagnetic catapult system turns out to be invaluable for quickly launching drones of different weights with adjustable torque.

Shandong Province, China’s second aircraft carrier Spots According to an analysis of a report with images displayed on China’s social media platform Weibo, there was a small fleet of “commercial or commercial derivative drones” on the flight deck earlier this June.

“”[The images] One report highlights the PLA’s constant efforts to develop and deploy various types of unmanned aerial vehicles, including aircraft that can be operated together in networked herds.

If that wasn’t enough to underscore the regime’s ambition to dominate strategic space with a new drone-first approach to military involvement, there is now the case of Zhu Haiyun.

The Zhu Hai Yun is a 290-foot marine research vessel designed to deploy a variety of underwater and aerial drones for a variety of purposes. The ship is also a drone and can be remotely controlled by the pilot or left for autonomous navigation in the open ocean.

In the manufacturer’s words, it is the “world’s first intelligent unmanned system mothership.”

And Beijing officially described its motherhood as a maritime research tool, but a report from the South China Morning Post. Admitted The ship must actually have the military capability to “intercept, siege, and expel invasive targets.”

The news can offend US military leadership. Impossible Deploy your own such ship for another 6 years.

See, learn and prepare

As the pace of China’s military drone development accelerates, so does the incidence of international drone-related incidents.

Epoch Times Photo
China’s HSU001 underwater drone will be seen during a military parade on October 1, 2019 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (GregBaker / AFP via Getty Images)

In August 2021, the Self-Defense Forces led multiple types of fighters over several days. Interception I caught a PLA drone flying south of Okinawa. Drones of comparable size to US predator drones and reaper drones were thought to be collecting strategic information in the Miyako Strait. The Miyako Strait provides the PLA with an important entrance to the Pacific Ocean, gain China’s military excursion for the last 10 years.

This incident serves as a keen sense of what many of China’s drone fleets are doing. It is about ensuring important strategic information for coordinating military actions.

And it’s back to the problem that some groups of drones launched from Hong Kong freighters were spying on US Navy vessels near the California coast.

If such actions were directly or indirectly linked to the vast military security system of the Chinese Communist Party government, what is the ultimate goal of the information gathered? What is “practical intelligence” behavior?

One analysis for that question found Its 2019 “Enemy Drone” “was aimed at stimulating America’s most capable air defense systems and collecting very high quality electronic intelligence data about them.”

“By collecting comprehensive electronic intelligence information about these systems, we can develop countermeasures and electronic tactics to destroy or defeat them,” the report said. “You can accurately estimate and duplicate features, and you can record and leverage your tactics.”

“The herd may have helped suck up all the sensitive data about the most capable warships at very close distances on Earth, or another nearby platform.”

In essence, the drone had achieved two things. The first was comprehensive information gathered by up close spying on US naval vessels. The second was to learn what elicits the American reaction and what the reaction will be.

In this way, the drone feeds U.S. naval vessels and a protocol for the Chinese to learn not only the technical specifications of U.S. vessels, but also how to operate the crew and how the U.S. forces behave in conflict. ..

Win the next war

Such tools have very realistic consequences for the United States, its allies and partners, and a more liberal international order. Probably not as serious a threat as the CCP invasion of democratic Taiwan, which has maintained its de facto independence since 1949.

Despite its independence, and despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the island, the administration has made the central point of its current focus a compulsory unification of Taiwan and the mainland. Drones seem to play a central role in that effort.

Late 2021, PLA Release A small aircraft carrier designed to deploy and retrieve swarms of drones. Such staging vehicles are designed to interfere with military operations in the maritime territory by working with carrier-capable fighters to flock enemy targets or distract them to reduce their effectiveness. I am.

Epoch Times Photo
On October 1, 2020, China’s National Foundation Day, a vehicle blaming the Chinese Communist Party will ring in front of protesters in front of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. (Ilene Eng / The Epoch Times)

One Survey of China’s Drone Capabilities by Drive found “Various types of drone swarms, whether operated by the Chinese military or by other parties, could become a component of future conflicts that China may be involved in. It’s getting higher. “

Such drone technology “will provide a decisive advantage in a scenario that revolves around Taiwan’s defense against China’s aggression,” the report said.

So it’s not surprising that the regime focuses so many strategic thoughts on the myriad military drone types.

Indeed, according to the results of wargames conducted by the U.S. Air Force, China deployment Hundreds, if not thousands, of autonomous swarms during the Taiwan invasion. Designed to work with other drones in the network, such swarms provide both unmatched elasticity and offensive capabilities to many of China’s more common weapons.

This is especially true of China’s strategic ambitions to drive the United States out of the Indo-Pacific and away from defending Taiwan.

But not all are without hope for Taiwan and the United States.Indeed, Taiwan, after years of war games demonstrating the overwhelming loss of the United States over the fictitious defense of the United States score Pyrrhic victory in the latest wargame in 2021 is certain.

What is the key to victory in repelling the CCP invasion of Taiwan? A herd of unique drones.

As one summary Said“Swarming capabilities are considered crucial to future conflicts, even by top U.S. think tanks and the Pentagon, making them decisive in major peer-state battles such as over Taiwan. There is a possibility.”

At the forefront of strategists everywhere is the fact that the US Air Force fought a virtual war with China with conceptual power. In other words, the United States had drone technology that wasn’t actually deployed yet.

Andrew Thornbrook


Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times, which deals with China-related issues with a focus on defense, military and national security. He holds a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University.