China’s Drones Trigger Fears of Drone Race

Dark SwordTwice a year, China showcases the latest in military technology at a show held in Zhuhai city, in the Guangdong province.  During the last show, held in November, a series of new unmanned aerial vehicle,s most of which bore a striking resemblance to the American drones that have been conducting attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past few years. Naturally, observers in the west were rather concerned with the wider implications.

Until recent years, the United States, Britain and Israel have maintained supremacy in the field of UAV’s. But much like stealth technology and naval aviation, the Red Dragon appears to be catching up by leaps and bounds. What’s more, it is likely China intends to take full advantage of using unmanned aerial vehicles to achieve its national interests, which includes their territorial disputes with Taiwan over the Senkaku Islands and South China Sea and Japan.

Sukhoi PAK FAIn response, the Defense Science Board released an unclassified report in they claimed: “In a worrisome trend, China has ramped up research in recent years faster than any other country. It displayed its first unmanned system model at the Zhuhai air show five years ago, and now every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to unmanned systems.”

The report went on to say that “the military significance of China’s move into unmanned systems is alarming [suggested that China could] easily match or outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems, rapidly close the technology gaps and become a formidable global competitor in unmanned systems.”

Chinese_dronesTwo Chinese models on display at the Zhuhai show — the CH-4 and the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl — appeared to be clones of the Reaper and Predator drones that are fixtures in the U.S. arsenal. A larger drone, the Xianglong, or Soaring Dragon, is a long-range, high-altitude model that would seem to be a cousin of the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Huang Wei, the director of the CH-4 program at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told the state-run newspaper Global Times that his lightweight drone can carry cameras, ground-searching radar, missiles and smart bombs. “As the Americans say,” he said, “the U.A.V. is fit for missions that are dirty, dangerous and dull.”

What will this mean for the future? Drone wars? Or a new arms race where increasingly complicated unmanned aerial vehicles and stealth fighters are involved? Difficult to say, but with the advances of such weapons systems in other countries, it was only a matter of time before China followed suit. One can only hope, as the saying goes “that cooler heads prevail” before they are used in an open conflict.


7 thoughts on “China’s Drones Trigger Fears of Drone Race

  1. This–in addition to the enormous ethical problems already manifest in current and planned drone usage–is why drones will turn into another example of our technological ability outstripping our wisdom. That is, we build cool toys way faster than we can process their implications.

    And there are some differences here from the nuclear arms race, but they may not be entirely good ones. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world understood how awful an idea it was to actually use a nuclear weapon. We were still foolish enough to build a bunch, but we never repeated the use of them in populated areas. Drones are terrible but not on a world-ending scale, and it’s for that very reason that they’ll see much wider use.

    America and our military allies were cool with using drones when we were the only ones who had them. We’ll see how well we like them now.

    1. Bingo! Did you see my other post about drones? I took that opportunity to talk about the wider implications and they are pretty deep. And since there’s also stealth drones in development, we can expect it to take a similar course to aerial warfare of the last century. We’re fortunate that arming them with nukes is impractical since we’ve already perfected ICBM’s.

      1. Drones speak of a greater potential for biological payload to me than nukes, not much need to retrofit a drone to carry a virus. Humanity is, as history has shown us again and again, prone to make the same mistakes with ever changing variables. I agree with Evan that the arrogance of being the only one with the toy makes for a false bravado. Only time will tell what level of responsible implementation each government will employ with this technology.

      2. Dangit! Every comment brings me back to what I said in the other place. I wanted to make some deep comments here but felt that would only fold over into stuff already said. But yes, your bang on in thinking that the perception of a “threat” only extends so far to their being a threat to a sense of dominance.

        It’s like Israel fearing Iran might build a nuke. Is there any chance that Tehran would authorize bombing Israel with one nuke knowing they’d get 200 in reply? Nope. But if Iran has a nuke, it means Israel no longer has a monopoly. The same holds true for the US and its hold on stealth, drones and aircraft carriers. China makes moves in any one of these departments, it’s Code Red, mainly because they know the free ride is over.

  2. How about we get Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis, and maybe Tyler Perry to take on their baddest action movie personas and go blow up the place making these drones? Might save us a headache a few years down the road.

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