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China’s military forces are equipped with a wide range of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in use across its army, navy, air force and rocket force – the military’s strategic and tactical missiles unit.
scmp.com elaborates on some of them, designed for various applications.
The PLA ground force has a number of UAVs that are primarily smaller, more tactical models and are often used for battlefield reconnaissance and targeting artillery fire to improve precision strikes.
BZK-005 or Changying
The navy generally uses smaller, tactical drones but it also has a limited number of sophisticated reconnaissance UAVs, notably this medium-altitude, long-endurance model. Roughly comparable to the US Global Hawk, it has a maximum range of 2,400km and a maximum endurance of 40 hours.
ASN-209 or Silver Eagle
This medium-altitude, medium-endurance drone has been in use by the navy since at least 2011 for long-distance communications support and electromagnetic confrontation. With a range of 200km and a maximum duration of 10 hours, it could be used to support satellite communications or for guidance in targeting missiles during combat.
GJ-1 or Gongji
A medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, the Gonji is a land attack version of the Pterodactyl. It has a range of 4,000km and a maximum endurance of 20 hours. Similar to the US Predator, this drone can carry at least 10 types of precision weapons, including air-to-ground missiles, precision-guided rockets and precision-guided bombs.
WZ-9 or Soaring Dragon
This high-altitude, long-endurance drone has a range of 7,000km and a maximum endurance of 10 hours. Its deployment in highly strategic locations could indicate the value of the drone for reconnaissance and intelligence operations.
This high-altitude, long-endurance drone has a range of 7,000km and a maximum endurance of 36 hours, and advanced command communications and electronic interference systems. Its GPS interference pods could reportedly be used on devices up to 400km away. It could potentially be used for electronic warfare and long-range reconnaissance, including tracking and monitoring US aircraft carriers.
With improved capabilities in tactical intelligence and reconnaissance, this UAV can also be used for artillery firing correction and damage assessment, as well as supporting long-range precision firepower capabilities.
Like the army, the rocket force mainly uses drones from the ASN series – largely for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance, target positioning and damage assessment. These drones can help determine coordinates or correct targeting for artillery, rocket launchers and missiles at the tactical and operational levels.