Leaked Pentagon docs shed light on new Chinese supersonic spy drone

Documents obtained by the Washington Post seem to provide information on the new Chinese supersonic spy drone.
Christopher McFadden
Image of the WZ-8 drone in 2022
Image of the WZ-8 drone in 2022


Further interesting information has been gleaned by The Washington Post after top-secret Pentagon documents were leaked a few weeks ago. One indicates that China plans to build and deploy a supersonic spy drone sometime in the future. Called the WZ-8, the rocket-propelled reconnaissance drone could theoretically travel at three times the speed of sound.

Various other details about Chinese espionage and military development are detailed in other documents in the cache, including intelligence that showed the existence of other Chinese spy balloons. The WZ-8 drones were unveiled in 2019 to coincide with the People's Republic of China's 70th anniversary of its founding. Still, few military analysts thought they were operational at the time, according to The Washington Post. The Post reportedly also obtained documents detailing the drone's flight patterns, and the bomber plane used to launch the craft.

The released document, allegedly from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency of the United States, comes as military tensions between Taiwan and mainland China have been rising. According to a recent Insider article, the Chinese military released a film just last week depicting what an assault on the island nation might look like.

The Washington Post first reported on the secret document, which reveals that China's military is advancing technologically with its surveillance systems to "target American warships around Taiwan and military bases in the region."

The documents' satellite imagery, dated August 9, 2022, shows two WZ-8 rocket-propelled surveillance drones at an air base 350 miles (563 km) from Shanghai. According to the documents, the advanced drones, which are launched from bomber aircraft, are just slightly slower than the U.S.'s iconic Lockheed Martin SR-72 "Blackbird," which Lockheed claims can achieve speeds of Mach 6.

According to The Washington Post, the drones could help China with real-time mapping that would help with planning or allow for high-speed missile attacks in a future confrontation. According to military analysts, there are, for example, numerous alarming weak points in Taiwan's air force's defenses against a coming Chinese invasion. Wargaming of future combat in the region indicates that Beijing would almost certainly immediately gain air supremacy if it went to war across the strait.

"The assessment says the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had 'almost certainly' established its first unmanned aerial vehicle unit at the base, which falls under the Eastern Theater Command, the branch of the Chinese military responsible for enforcing Beijing’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan," reports the Washington Post.

However, according to Chi Li-pin, director of the aeronautical systems research section at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan's military-run weapons developer, the drone's primary usage will be against the United States and its military installations in the Pacific. “It’s a weapon for anti-access and area denial,” he said. The aircraft does not now appear to be built to launch assaults, but Chi pointed out that changes might enable it to do so in the future. “It is difficult to detect and intercept. The existing U.S. air-to-air weapons aren’t good enough,” he told the Post.

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