China deploying drones for ‘surveillance and strikes’

The Chinese military is deploying a new generation of reconnaissance-attack drones that could neutralize the strategic effects of U.S. THAAD batteries in South Korea.

China’s Yilong drones could be used to spy on U.S. missile defense on the Korean peninsula. File Photo by Andy Wong/EPA
China’s Yilong drones could be used to spy on U.S. missile defense on the Korean peninsula. File Photo by Andy Wong/EPA

The People’s Liberation Army Daily reported Friday the army has been deploying the Yilong-1 drone, and suggested deployment of the Yilong-2 could take place, following a successful flight test of the unmanned aerial vehicle on Feb. 27.

The Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute presided over the development of the Yilong-2.

The Chinese state-controlled newspaper said the drones can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and strikes.

Analysts have said the unmanned aerial vehicles would soon be handed over to front-line military units for operations, according to South Korean news service Newsis.

China has competed against the United States and Israel in the drone market, and has offered cheaper defense exports to international buyers.

The Yilong-2 is priced at $1 million, a substantially lower price than the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper at $30 million.

The Yilong drones resemble the U.S.-manufactured MQ-1 Predator and was publicly unveiled for the first time at the 2012 Zhuhai Air Show in China.

The Yilong weighs 1.1 tons, has a 14-meter wingspan, can be equipped with six missiles, and can fly for more than 20 hours without stopping.

The deployment of the U.S. missile defense system on the Korean peninsula has been met with strong opposition from Beijing.

On Friday, Chinese state tabloid Global Times listed THAAD deployment as one of the “top 10” news items of 2017.

Other top news topics in China included North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, China’s foreign policy initiatives, U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy and strained relations with Taiwan.

By Elizabeth Shim