According to a recent technical journal, China's military now has countermeasures for thwarting Global Hawk flights, saying the stealth drone is flown near China’s southeast coast “continually” and thus “countermeasures against Global Hawk are considered.”
Global Hawk missions are classified. But defense officials say they are worried the aircraft could become targets of China's military should its air forces try to enforce a newly established air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.
China has demanded that all aircraft entering the zone, which extends nearly 100 miles into the Pacific Ocean, file pre-flight routing plans.
The U.S. has said it does not recognize the zone, which encroaches on Japan’s air zone over the Senkaku Islands.
Defense officials told Inside the Ring that one key reason for implementing the air zone was to stop U.S. military surveillance flights near China’s coasts.
The report provides a detailed technical description of China’s methods against Global Hawk flights, including electronic jamming of onboard spy equipment and aircraft-to-satellite signals used to remotely pilot the drones, electronic disruption of GPS signals used for navigation, and using airborne warning and control aircraft to detect the drone and guide warplanes to shoot them down.
Also, the report suggests using “smoke screens” to hide spying targets — a technique readily available in China, as dangerous levels of smog have blanketed many major cities in recent weeks.
The Chinese also are considering cyberattacks that would allow them to take over controls of Global Hawks and cause them to crash or forced to land, a technique the report suggests may have been used by Iran to down a secret RQ-170 stealth drone.
To unmask the drone’s low-radar signature, the Chinese also plan to use wide-spectrum and passive radar to locate and then direct aircraft to shoot down the drones.
“Regardless of whether it is a Global Hawk or an RQ-170 stealth [drone], it is afraid of seven things: electronics jamming; camouflage deception, being dazed by smoke screens; mid-air intercepts; airborne early warning; attack platforms and mid-air ambushes,” the report said. “If effective barrage jamming can be implemented by the opponent, then the operational effectiveness of the [drone] will be partially or totally lost.”
The Global Hawk is the Air Force’s premier long-range surveillance drone, with a range of 2,300 miles at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet. It is equipped with synthetic aperture radar, high-resolution cameras and signals intelligence equipment.
So far, an armed version has not been deployed, but the aircraft is capable of carrying up to 2,000 pounds.
The Navy version under development is called the MQ-4C Triton.
The report was published in February in the military journal “Aerospace Electronic Warfare,” a publication of the Institute 8511 of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., China’s main missile manufacturer.