BEIJING – During the grand October 1 military parade dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country unveiled several new weapons, including the WZ-8 hypersonic drone.
While DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles have attracted great attention among the new weapons introduced, WZ-8 surveillance and reconnaissance drones have the most significant implications for the future capabilities of the Chinese Army, writes Military Watch magazine.
While the DF-41 missiles can carry nuclear warheads farther, faster, in larger quantities, and with greater reliability than previous missiles, the weapon only represents an improvement on an existing capability in other missiles: attacking targets everywhere, like the continental United States with thermonuclear warheads.
The WZ-8, by contrast, has a completely new and unique capability not only for the Chinese Armed Forces, but also globally, a capability that can multiply the power of many of the Asian country’s tactical weapon systems.
The WZ-8 is designed to fly at extreme speeds and altitudes over enemy territory to provide general intelligence and target intelligence in enemy positions, explains the military magazine.
Some reconnaissance aircraft such as the US A-12 and the Soviet MiG-25R performed similar tasks and proved instrumental in a number of major conflicts. With the emergence of numerous more sophisticated surveillance satellites, these aircraft are no longer needed.
While vital in any conflict, satellites can be neutralized, leaving the military without the data and coordinates needed to attack enemy targets. The WZ-8, however, is capable of flying at a speed of between Mach 6 and Mach 7, which means it is almost impossible to take down.
Western long-range air-to-air missiles, such as the AIM-120 and Meteor, are now capable of reaching Mach 5 speed, requiring a speed greater than Mach 10 to reliably take down a hypersonic aircraft such as the WZ-8, pointed out Military Watch.
Although the US has invested heavily in anti-satellite capabilities, the Chinese army’s arsenal will not “go blind” even if its satellites are eliminated. The WZ-8 is not a combat weapon, but is capable of significantly diminishing the survivability of US warships and complicating US Navy operations in East Asia.