Inside the Ring: Here come the drones

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China is preparing its military to conduct warfare with offensive and defensive spying and attack drones, according to a Chinese colonel.

Sr. Col. Wu Guohui disclosed “secrets” about China’s plans for unmanned aircraft conflict last week with the state-run People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

Col. Wu, an assistant professor at China’s National Defense University and an air force special class aviator, said drones will become a “major force” in future air combat, according to the Oct. 17 report.

He stated that countering offensive and defensive unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations is becoming a new form of air warfare. The colonel said Chinese J-7 fighters recently shot down two encroaching, high-altitude reconnaissance drones flying at an altitude of about 59,000 feet. He did not elaborate.

The U.S. Air Force operates RQ-4 Global Hawk long-range reconnaissance drones that are known to be spying on China.

Chinese drone operations involve both preset flight patterns and remotely piloted drones, Col. Wu said.

“The latter mode is new, and it gives a UAV offensive and defensive capabilities, and it brings up the possibility of ‘counter-UAV combat operations’ — cutting, jamming, even implanting something to control its link,” the People’s Daily said.

Preparing for drone warfare is a priority for air combat, Col. Wu said.

The report stated that Iran’s downing of a U.S. stealth RQ-170 drone in 2011 “showed clearly that Iran knows how to take over that UAV’s control link” and land the aircraft.

Some U.S. officials suspect China assisted Iran with the capture of the RQ-170.

Col. Wu said drone warfare is shifting from purely reconnaissance missions to integrated reconnaissance and attack.

Last month, Chinese state television introduced China’s “Rainbow” series of drone aircraft during a Beijing International Air Show.

China’s Rainbow series UAVs have become bigger and bigger in size, heavier and heavier in takeoff weight, and more and more complete in model and spectrum,” China’s CCTV said in a Sept. 28 report.

“In terms of application, China’s UAVs have formed a relatively complete system, developing from various reconnaissance and surveillance functions to a reconnaissance-strike integrated function.”

Shi Wen of the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, which developed the new drone, said Rainbow-3s and Rainbow 4s are equal to U.S. Predator UAVs.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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