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How China Integrates Drones Into PLA Operations Around Taiwan – The Diplomat

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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have become synonymous with modern warfare. During the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, subsequent Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2s made international Headlines By destroying hundreds of Russian tanks, armored vehicles and air-defense systems with impunity. TB2s also took part in some of the most daring operations of the war, such as recapture Snake Island and sink Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. More importantly, perhaps, Ukraine successfully used Bayercutter’s grayscale targeting turret imagery as a effective promotional tool,

Recently, Chinese drones also made headlines. Taiwan Cruises two times a week. In this article we will take a closer look at the drone operations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) near Taiwan.

We noted Earlier The Diplomat reported that the first approved deployment of drones by the PLA was on September 5, 2022, when Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) issued a statement. flight path of the PLA BZK-007 reconnaissance UAV. That drone was part of a larger nine-sortie incursion into Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ. Since then, the PLA Large portfolio of drones Intrusions have become a regular fixture in the island’s ADIZ, with an average of 16 flights per month. However, what attracted attention recently were two PLA UAV flights that circled Taiwan within a week.

as per MND Daily ADIZ ReportOn 27 April, a TB-001 medium-altitude and long-endurance (MALE) UAV orbited Taiwan counterclockwise (south to north). TB-001 crossed the median line and entered Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ, passing through the Bashi Channel before flying along the east coast of the island and returning to the mainland from the northeastern end of the median line. TB-001 was accompanied by another UAV, BZK-005, which entered the southeastern ADIZ and flew halfway across the eastern side of the island before turning back. The TB-001 circumnavigation sortie took place as part of a 19-sortie incursion, in which PLA fighters (J-10s) and fighter-bombers (Su-30s and J-16s) carried out the Median Line during KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare crossed the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (ASW-MPA) and Y-8 RECCE entered Bashi Channel.

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On May 2, the Joint Staff of Japan informed of That the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) had scrambled fighters to intercept a PLA UAV flying between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan. joint staff too Free It is tracking the flight path of the drone off the east coast of Taiwan. Taiwan’s MND on May 3 Confirmed that a PLA UAV had made a circumnavigation flight around Taiwan the day before. The MND report shows that a BZK-005 crossed the median line in the north of Taiwan and flew in a clockwise direction around the island before passing through the Bashi Channel and crossing the median line again at the southern end. Filled. The 2 May encirclement flight was also part of a larger 13-sortie PLA intrusion, with fighters (J-10s) and fighter-bombers (SU-30s and J-16s) again crossing the median line, while KQ -200 ASW-MPA, Y-8 RECCE, and Y-8 EW entered the Bashi Channel.

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It shouldn’t be surprising to see increased UAV activity around Taiwan. However, one wonders why the PLA has not used drones with such intensity earlier. We have noted Prior to that the PLA Navy Aviation (PLAN-A) has employed a series of UAVs including the BZK-005, BZK-007, and TB-001 over the South China Sea and East China Sea over the years. In addition, PLAN’s South Sea Fleet frequently deploys its BZK-005 and, more recently, WZ-7 UAVs for extended coverage of critical sea lanes of communication to both the Paracel and Spratly Islands, where they are used for PLAN-A Let’s support KQ. -200 anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft operations. Japan has also repeatedly reported PLA drones operating at altitudes above East China Sea near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and transiting through the Miyako Strait in the western Pacific in support of PLAN surface ships training and maritime domain awareness.

The PLA’s use of drones near Taiwan is often cited as another tool in Beijing’s “gray zone” toolbox to push Taipei below the threshold of open confrontation. The report also claims that recent circumnavigation flights by PLA drones (28 April and 2 May) demonstrate China’s ability to encircle Taiwan and provide an opportunity for retaliation by Taipei and its embroiled air force. Presents a new challenge.

In addition, analysts point to the role of Chinese drones in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, assassinations and attacks. However, many such claims draw from drone use by other countries, most notably the use of drones by the United States in non-disputed environments such as Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa. The assassination of Taiwan’s leadership by a large drone is not real. Chinese drones are inherently vulnerable to Taiwanese defences. Iranian Revolutionary Guards of english The US Air Force’s RQ-4A Global Hawk over the Strait of Hormuz in 2019 has amply illustrated this reality.

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Comments are also mentioned in these pages Unclear legal situation surrounding drones and their use, which is reportedly a challenge to Taipei. However, there should be no legal distinction between aircraft of one State, whether crewed or unmanned, entering the sovereign airspace of another State (understood as airspace above and within the land border of the State) and airspace above the State’s territorial sea, extending up to 12 nautical miles) from the State’s high water mark). Taiwan has the right to defend itself against intruding aircraft.

Furthermore, as the war in Ukraine has already shown, drones remain vulnerable to air defenses and electronic countermeasures. Indeed, after Russia adopted its strategy and techniques and concentrated its air defenses in the east and south of Ukraine, the much-known Bayraktar has almost disappeared from news coverage. Ukrainian troops have acknowledged that the frontlines have effectively become a no-go zone for large drones such as the Bayraktar. In addition, as already mentioned, in 2019, the Revolutionary Guard of Iran Shot down A US Global Hawk Hale UAV over international waters near Iran. These realities demonstrate the vulnerability of today’s drone fleet.

A closer look at Chinese drone flights near Taiwan reveals some surprises. Like the United States, Australia, Britain and Japan, China is integrating large (MALE and HALE) UAVs into its naval operations. The PLA’s BZK-005, TB-001, and “Soaring Dragon” are roughly equivalent to the US-built MQ-9B “Sea Guardian” and MQ-4C “Triton” or the Israeli Hermes 900 MALE and HALE UAVs, which specialize in Maritime patrol, search and rescue (SAR), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition (ISTAR), and signals intelligence (SIGINT). Large drones flying at high altitude can monitor sea-spaces on a large scale using a combination of SAR/ISAR/GMTI and EO/IR sensors, and can hover over an area of ​​interest for 30-40 hours without a break Are.

The PLA is also increasingly integrating drones into its maritime “counter-invasion” strategy. As part of this, PLA is integrating the drone with other ISR capabilities like KQ-200 ASW MPA, Y-8 Recce, Y-8/-9 ELINT, and Y-8/-9 ECM aircraft. Indeed, we observed this on both circumnavigating flights on 27 April and 2 May (see also Here And Here, PLA drones were also recorded (see, Here, HereAnd Here) entering Taiwan’s southeastern ADIZ and traveling along the east coast of the island before returning.

Usually, however, the BZK-005 UAV is seen with the KQ-200 ASW MPA in the northern part of the South China Sea halfway between Taiwan and the Pratas Islands in an area usually patrolled by the latter (eg see, Here, Here And Here, In addition, BZK-005s have been integrated into PLAN’s surface and subsurface warfare training and exercises east of Taiwan (see Here, It’s also worth noting that the PLA is looking to employ drones, specifically the BZK-005, in search of snipers. Taiwan’s MND released the figures on January 9 showed A BZK-005 is entering the strategic Luzon Strait and the western Pacific, followed by sea-strike-capable H-6 bombers.

In several other instances, as part of a mixed formation, the BZK-005 has been sent past the Luzon Strait to monitor incoming maritime traffic, while crewed KQ-200 and sea-strike capable fighters (usually J-16s) patrolled in between. Taiwan and the Pratas Islands control the entrance to the Taiwan Strait and China’s coastline (see, for example, Here And Here, Interestingly, the smaller and less capable BZK-007 – essentially an uncrewed sports plane with electro-optical cameras – and the CH-4, an armed drone, have also occasionally been used as crewed ISR assets close to China’s coast. Seen working in close proximity with (Look Here And Here,

It has been less than a year since PLA drones first appeared in the skies around Taiwan. Operating side by side as seemingly complementary types, Chinese drones offer significant advantages in terms of range and stray time (and therefore geographic area covered in a single sortie) compared to their crewed counterparts. Crucially, the mixed structures observed, and the roles adopted by the uncrewed system, suggest a high degree of coordination between the two.

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However, it is not well understood to what extent crewed and uncrewed platforms are integrated. It is not known whether, for example, the BZK-005 can directly transfer imagery or video data from its sensors to other (crewed) aircraft, including the KQ-200 or J-16. It is also not known whether the KQ-200 or KJ-500 crew can take control of the UAV in the air and start it again. Many questions remain due to the high level of secrecy surrounding these systems.

Nevertheless, the PLA’s operations around Taiwan show that China’s military is moving vigorously to integrate crewed and uncrewed platforms and ensure interoperability with other services.