A proper shift toward drone-led special operations in battle scenarios, including a possible issue with the US over Taiwan, has been revealed by China in an ambitious strategy to change its military operations through the integration of more sophisticated robotic systems.
In order to lessen the high risks of such missions, China’s military intends to replace humans with machines in special operations abroad, according to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP ) this month.
According to the SCMP report, scientists are collaborating with the People’s Liberation Army ( PLA ) to create unmanned aerial vehicles ( UAVs ) that can travel great distances, dive deep underwater, and wait for extended periods of time.
In order to assist Chinese businesses, engineers, and scientists in better understanding the needs and strategic objectives of the military, the PLA’s 78092 system has provided information about a speculative overseas special operations plan that was published in the Fire Control &, Command Control journal.
According to the PLA’s plan, the fictional operation will take place in 2035, when China and an unknown neighboring country engage in a small-scale conflict. Both sides must agree to restrict their use of small arms, such as small boats, drones, and anti-aircraft guns.
The Army is tasked with attacking crucial enemy installations, such as crucial control and supply hubs heavy behind enemy lines, quickly and covertly in that 2035 scenario.
According to the SCMP report, the UAVs designed for specific operations must be able to fly at really low altitudes, navigate obstacles, engage beyond visual range, and pursue and eliminate enemy forces.
It emphasizes that after an initial attack, sophisticated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ( ISR ) systems must be able to hover over the battlefield, assess the damage, or decide whether additional action is necessary. According to the report, the PLA group drew inspiration from US military strategy.
The Fire Control &, Command Control blog content provides a unique glimpse into China’s drone war ambitions and intentions because the country has been somewhat secretive about how it plans to use drones in any potential regional conflicts.
President Xi Jinping, the Chinese security equipment, and the PLA have n’t made much public mention of China’s aircraft swarm systems, strategy, research and development, or potential use of the techniques in a fight, according to Emilie Stewart in an article published in October 2023 for the China Aerospace Studies Institute.
Stewart notes that while the majority of Chinese articles widely describe helicopter swarms, they omit any distinctive Foreign traits that might distinguish the study from those of other drone researchers.
In those posts, aircraft swarms are defined similarly to how the US Air Force defines them, according to Stewart, while also stressing the importance of freedom and networking connectivity.
Stewart also notes that the majority of those papers discuss US drone swarming capabilities and exaggerated reports about China’s capabilities, which she claims are unsubstantiated and should be viewed with suspicion.
However, there may be two trends in China’s aircraft development. The second, developed by the US, focuses on creating long-range, high-end UAVs for precise strikes and proper reconnaissance outside of polite lands.
The MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk, two reasonably cheap US drones created in accordance with this philosophy, are not typically regarded as expendable. China has been using robots in the East China Sea that adhere to that theory as a result of this trend.
The CH-family of drones, according to Wonjune Hwang in a June 2020 article for the International Journal of China Studies, are ideal for maintaining maritime situation awareness and ISR, and they are likely to become the PLA Navy’s ( PLA-N) most valuable assets in ongoing and future maritime disputes.
China’s UAVs, according to Hwang, have the potential to be strategic weapons because of their range and heavy payload, making them perfect for putting an anti-access/area denial ( A2/AD ) strategy into practice.
The continuous Ukraine war has sparked the next trend in drone development, which involves mass-producing low-cost, deployable military drones using commercial dual-use technology. This trend is the complete opposite of the earlier trend of creating high-end, pricey aircraft. In comparison to India, China’s aircraft use in the Himalayas is more pronounced.
China has been using smaller military UAVs for administrative travel, border security, combat damage assessment, artillery observation, hero support, own clearance, search and rescue, and communication support in the Himalayas, according to Antoine Bondaz and Simon Berthault in a report published in July 2023 by the Foundation for Strategic Research.
Bondaz and Berthault point out that the majority of China’s drones in the Himalayas are professional, demonstrating the unique civil-military integration strategy of the country.
Unmanned ground vehicles ( UGV ) and unmanned surface vessels ( USV), however, may also be included in China’s future drone development for quick, decisive, and covert wars, as the SCMP report suggests.
Janes announced that the Sharp Claw I UGV had started operating in the Army in April 2020. The Sharp Claw I, according to Janes, can be transported in the larger Sharp Curve II UGV and weighs 120 tons, is 60 centimeters tall, and has a 1-kilometer operating variety.
At the World Defense Show 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation ( CSSC ) unveiled a prototype of an unmanned combat surface vehicle (UCSV ) weighing 340 tons, according to Janes.
According to the report, the UCSV has a thick deck of 6.2 meters, is 58 meters long, and is 18.1 meters wide total. According to Janes, the USCV may go up to 4, 000 nautical miles and has a maximum speed of 42 twists.
The main bridge has an 8-cell vertical launching system (VLS ) for surface-to-air ( SAM ) missiles, and the port and starboard sides have lightweight torpedo tube launchers. It also mentions that the UCSV has a front remote weapon station for two 20mm or 30mm cannons.
China may be a little evasive about its aircraft growth trajectory, but the PLA is unquestionably aware that potential conflicts will be more and more decided by drones.