Continued from page 2

For the immediate future, the Chinese drones are monitoring disputed maritime and land boundaries that are likely to “increase tensions” since other states in the region lack the same capabilities.

“Like any new capability, UAVs may encourage the inexperienced to overreach and engage in risk taking,” the report said. “There could be a sense that because human pilot lives are not at stake, operators can push farther than they otherwise might.”

An isolated UAV attack during a crisis also could lead to a major conflict. “In the future, PRC decision-makers might feel compelled to order ‘plausibly deniable’ UAV attacks as a means of sending a political signal only to inadvertently wind up escalating tensions,” the report said.

Over the long term, Chinese drones will support the expansion of Chinese military operational areas by pushing the ability to hit targets further into the western Pacific. The report said China likely will use its UAV force for targeting and guidance of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile designed to strike U.S. aircraft carriers more than a thousand miles from China’s coast.

“While the potential for a large scale conflict in the region currently appears low, the lack of adequate preparation for worst case scenarios could encourage and invite adventurous adversary behavior, ultimately increasing risks to peace and stability,” the report stated.

U.S. intelligence agencies reported earlier this month that China plans to build 11 drone bases along its coastline by 2015, with each base deploying at least one unmanned aircraft.

The People’s Liberation Army currently has two drone bases in northeast Liaoning province. A third base was disclosed further south at Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, also on the Bohai Sea.

The bases were announced in August by the State Oceanic Administration, which has been used as a proxy by the Chinese military to lay claim to international waters and islands as part of a strategy of pushing Chinese maritime control hundreds and eventually thousands of miles from the coast through what Beijing calls its two Asian island chain strategy. The island chains stretch from Northeast Asia through Southeast Asia.

The two bases in the Bohai Sea are located at Yingkou and Dalian to provide surveillance of the Bohai and Yellow Seas.

China called U.S. aircraft carrier exercises held in the Yellow Sea three years ago “a threat to China” even though the carrier maneuvers were carried out in international waters.

The maritime surveillance drones provide high-definition remote imagery and will be used by China to respond to emergencies in the region and also to identify what China claims are illegal resource extraction from undersea gas and oil deposits.

U.S. officials regard recent highlighting of attack drones as a sign that Beijing remains intent on taking control of the Senkakus.

The increased use of drones by both China and Japan is expected to increase tensions over the Senkakus, the officials said.

According to Fisher, China is also exporting two of its armed drones, the Yi Long and CH-3, to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

The UAE government purchased the Yi Long, and a smaller CH-3 was sold to Pakistan and repackaged by Islamabad as the Shahpar.

Story Continues →