China has developed a large new drone — known as the Shen Diao or Divine Eagle — which could threaten Taiwan.
Unveiled over the past few days, it is made by Shenyang Aircraft Corp and is a high-altitude long-endurance uncrewed aircraft that makes potential targets in Taiwan more vulnerable.
“For Taiwan, countering this new threat may require a much larger and longer-range air-to-air missile,” military analyst Rick Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center told the Taipei Times.
Fisher said the new drone could provide real-time targeting information to China’s “highly accurate” ballistic and cruise missiles.
“This means that China has a new tool to prevent US and Japanese forces from aiding Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack,” Fisher said. “The Shen Diao will also help Chinese air and naval forces to contest the area out to the second island chain, which could allow the Chinese military to surround Taiwan.”
Fisher said the drone could help Beijing consolidate its control over the South China Sea in cooperation with Chinese air and naval forces “soon to be based on its new large reclaimed island bases.”
If China’s military communications satellites are attacked, the drone could serve as a temporary replacement “providing a vital redundancy for China to continue military operations against Taiwan,” he said.
“The Shen Diao adds to the credibility of the threat from China’s current and future longer range anti-ship ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, in that it can provide targeting data that is more persistent than from satellites,” he said.
The drone is believed to be larger than the US Air Force’s Global Hawk surveillance drone.
Military and intelligence analyst Bill Gertz has reported that it has a twin fuselage configuration that allows it to carry more fuel and numerous active electronically scanned array radars, as well as tracking sensors capable of following enemy fighter jets and cruise missiles.
A report in Popular Science magazine said that the drone was first flown in February.
It is part of China’s long-range, well-funded military buildup, US House Armed Services Committee member Representative J. Randy Forbes said.
He said the drone would advance targeting capabilities that China could use in an anti-access, area-denial campaign.
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