The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Chengdu GJ-2 unmanned aerial vehicle also referred to as the Wing Loong 2, carried out flight activities inside Taiwan’s air defense identification zone for the first time.
The drone’s presence was detected on October 4 by the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND), which included this development in its daily update.
According to the Ministry, as of 6 a.m. (UTC+8), 29 PLA aircraft and five PLAN vessels were identified near Taiwan.
The Taiwanese MND added that 16 of the detected aircraft, which included one BZK-005 UAV RECCE, four SU-30s, six J-10s, two J-16s, one Y-8 ASW, one Y-9 CC, and one GJ-2 UAV RECCE, had either crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or ventured into Taiwan’s north and southwest Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ).
Ben Lewis, a defense analyst who tracks Chinese military aircraft crossing Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), pointed out that this marks the first instance of the GJ-2 UAV being observed within the ADIZ.
29 PLA aircraft and 5 PLAN vessels around Taiwan were detected by 6 a.m.(UTC+8) today. R.O.C. Armed Forces have monitored the situation and tasked CAP aircraft, Navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond these activities. pic.twitter.com/IX3ybzO10M
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) October 4, 2023
Lewis noted, “This is the first time the GJ-2 UAV has been tracked in the ADIZ and the first new airframe since April 2023.”
The MND said it closely monitored the situation using its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system. It promptly activated combat patrol aircraft, dispatched naval vessels, and deployed land-based air defense missile systems.
The Chinese military’s use of drones near Taiwan has seen a notable uptick in recent months, with long-range reconnaissance drones occasionally recorded circling the island.
In 2020, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated the deployment of combat drones around Taiwan as part of its “island encirclement patrols.”
In addition to reconnaissance drones, Beijing has dispatched tactical assessment drones for routine patrols around the island.
Separately, the Chinese military has also begun experimenting with innovative tactics in drone warfare, such as remote-controlled takeoffs and landings, as well as coordinating operations with various other military services and branches.
Chengdu GJ-2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
The Chengdu GJ-2, the Wing Loong 2, is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and can perform both reconnaissance and ground attack missions.
It is an upgraded Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) iteration. Categorized as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV, the concept of the Wing Loong II was initially unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.
With dimensions measuring 11 meters in length and a wingspan of 20.5 meters, the Wing Loong II can transport both bombs and air-to-surface missiles, with a munitions capacity of over 400 kilograms.
It possesses a flight endurance of approximately 20 hours and can reach a top speed of 370 kilometers per hour. Equipped with day and infrared cameras and sensors for surveillance and targeting, this UAV is remotely operated from a mobile ground station.
The Wing Loong II is capable of carrying various types of munitions, which include Lan Jian 7 (Blue Arrow 7) laser-guided air-to-surface missiles, TG100 laser/INS/GPS-guided bombs, and the AR-1/HJ-10 anti-tank missile.
The AR-1/HJ-10 is often considered the Chinese counterpart to the American-made Hellfire missile. The Wing Loong II UAV was primarily engineered with export in mind, positioning it as a more budget-friendly substitute to the MQ-1 Predator.
This unmanned aircraft comes at an estimated per-unit cost of approximately $1-2 million, which stands in stark contrast to the MQ-9 Reaper, with a price tag that reaches as high as US$ 30 million, making it an appealing option for potential buyers looking for a cost-effective alternative.
The variant has been sold to numerous countries, including Serbia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya, Nigeria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
In the past, the drone has displayed its versatility by successfully executing a wide array of missions.
In 2020, an investigation by BBC Africa Eye and BBC Arabic Documentaries uncovered that the UAE had employed Wing Loong II drones to launch Chinese Blue Arrow 7 missiles at a military academy in Tripoli, the capital of Libya.
These drones were operated from Libya’s Al-Khadim air base, which was under the control of the UAE.
Furthermore, during the 2021 Henan floods, due to communication disruptions in some flooded areas, China’s Ministry of Emergency Management deployed its emergency disaster-response Chengdu Wing Loong II (Wing Loong 2H) drone to those affected regions.
This drone conducted nearly 6 hours of ground reconnaissance and communication relay services as part of the response efforts.