After making a series of big exposes, the US Pentagon documents leaked on Discord suggest that China is readying to deploy a cutting-edge high-altitude spy drone, ‘WZ-8,’ that could travel at three times the speed of sound.
The revelation was published by The Washington Post and is reportedly based on a secret document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. EurAsian Times could not verify the authenticity of the report or the document cited by the newspaper.
The claims, if true, would significantly bolster Chinese surveillance capabilities. The drones are a cutting-edge surveillance system that could assist China in gathering real-time mapping data to devise strategies or carry out missile strikes in a future conflict.
The document also features satellite imagery from August 9 that shows two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai. The assessment claims that the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command, which is in charge of upholding Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, had “almost certainly” established its first unmanned aerial vehicle unit at the base.
The facility has expanded over the past few years, according to an examination of satellite images made accessible to the public on Google Earth and given to The Post by Planet Labs, with at least 18 new structures built after August 2020. New, noticeably bigger roads leading into the hills south of the runway were built beginning in late February 2022. The new area is nearly 130 feet wide in some spots.
In addition to this upcoming drone, the leaked documents suggest that the Chinese military is developing technology that might enable it to target American warships and military installations in the region, including those near Taiwan.
Other documents revealed Chinese espionage activities and military modernization, such as intelligence showing additional Chinese spy balloons. This becomes even more significant now after Beijing has come under the radar regarding its spying activities.
In February this year, the United States shot down what was alleged to be a Chinese spy balloon flying over strategic American military installations. The incident triggered a diplomatic storm between the two adversaries, bringing tensions to an all-time high.
Following the spy balloon saga between China and the US, media reports indicated China had a special and futuristic unit for spying using high-altitude balloons. Some set of reports also alleged that Beijing was snooping using these balloons.
In addition to these revelations that may be of particular importance to China’s adversaries, the Pentagon document also revealed that China had conducted a test of its DF-27 Hypersonic missile in February 2023. The vehicle flew for 12 minutes over 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) and had a “high probability” of breaching American ballistic missile defense systems.
However, as drone warfare assumes enhanced significance in modern military ethos, the details about the new Chinese drone are particularly intriguing.
The Washington Post discovered the WZ-8 program in a collection of photos of classified documents that a Massachusetts Air National Guard member purportedly released on Discord, a popular group chat platform among gamers.
China’s Latest WZ-8 Drone: What Do We Know?
Beijing unveiled the WZ-8 drones in 2019 when two jet-black aircraft were flown past Tiananmen Square to celebrate the People’s Republic of China’s 70th founding anniversary. At the time, few observers believed the drones were completely operational.
Two years later, in 2021, China debuted its WZ-8 drone at an air show among other cutting-edge drones like the GJ-11 prototype and the WZ-7, which has become very popular.
The WZ-8 is a high-altitude and high-speed UAV for reconnaissance missions and is essentially a brand-new near-space aircraft that combines aviation and aeronautic technologies, as previously reported by Global Times.
At the 2021 Air Show, AVIC said in a statement given to the Global Times that this UAV can gather high-resolution photographs of targets under intense enemy defense and provide useful intelligence and information for all troops to undertake battle damage assessments.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s assessment, accessed by The Washington Post, also included information on the potential flight routes for the drone and the twin-engine H6-M Badger bomber that launched it. The warplane would depart from its home base and fly to a location just off China’s east coast before unleashing the stealth drone.
The drone could then enter Taiwanese or South Korean airspace at a height of 100,000 feet and a speed of three times the speed of sound. The document does not specify how the drone is propelled but states that the “engine features are primarily associated with rocket fuel.”
Allegedly a poster from the leaked secret documents and even if the routes are only "projected" and "not necessarily authoritative", it’s anyway interesting.
Funny is a typo since the Lu'an AB is spelled as Liuan.
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) April 19, 2023
The planned routes are shown on a map marked as “not necessarily authoritative,” but it proposes possible approaches. The leaked document indicates that the main island of Taiwan and the western part of South Korea, including Seoul, are some areas where the drone’s “electro-optical” cameras and sensors might gather intelligence.
Military experts believe that the drone could be used against the United States and its military assets and bases in the Pacific in the event of a conflict in the region between the two adversaries. According to Chi Li-pin, director of the aeronautical systems research section at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, “It’s a weapon for anti-access and area denial.”
This is noteworthy as Beijing already has a very sophisticated A2/AD system along its shores, which is believed to give the country an enormous home advantage while fighting a war. Military experts have warned that China and the US might go to war if the former launched the invasion of Taiwan.
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,” he said.