Chinese drones cross the center line of the Taiwan Strait for the first time

  • A Chinese drone crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait on Thursday with warplanes.
  • This is the first time Chinese drones have been known to cross the unofficial demarcation line.
  • Other drone sorties that crossed the median line were recorded on Friday and Saturday.

The Taiwanese military confirmed for the first time that the People’s Liberation Army piloted drones across the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait this week.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 45 PLA planes flew over Taiwan on Thursday, 25 of which crossed the median line, including a BT-100 unmanned aerial vehicle. He also confirmed that more drones crossed the line on Friday and Saturday.

On Monday, he said another PLA drone – identified as a BZK-007 – entered the Southwest Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, a rare revelation of the model and its flight route.

The sorties came after the Taiwanese military shot down a civilian drone which flew in restricted waters near Shiyu, a small Taiwan-controlled island a few miles from the Chinese mainland.

Shiyu Kinmen County Taiwan China

Shiyu, or Lion Islet, which is part of Kinmen County in Taiwan, is just a few kilometers from the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Carl Court/Getty Images


The center line of the Taiwan Strait – which separates mainland China and Taiwan and connects the East and South China Seas – was delineated by Benjamin Davis Jr., a senior commander in the US Air Force, in 1955 and Washington then pressures both parties to come to an agreement. tacit agreement not to cross it.

But tensions have escalated in the strait since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied repeated warnings from Beijing by visiting Taiwan August 2 and 3. PLA launched massive exercises circling the island after his visit.

Beijing considers the island part of China and has never ruled out the use of force to gain control under the One China policy. The United States, like many states, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, but opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

A source close to the PLA said Beijing has been sending drones into the Taiwan Strait since it stepped up its “encirclement patrols”.

“The PLA used to send drones to perform reconnaissance tasks in sensitive areas of the sky before sending fighter jets for special missions, but the Taiwanese military was unaware of this. until recently,” said the source, who requested anonymity due to sensitivity. from subject.

South China Sea between Xiamen in China and Kinmen in Taiwan

Xiamen, in the distance, and part of Kinmen County in Taiwan, in the foreground, in February 2021.

An Rong Xu/Getty Images


Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwan Naval Academy, said the use of drones may date back to November last year when the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command announced “joint security patrols of combat readiness” around Taiwan.

“The Taiwanese military should have been aware of the [PLA drones]”, Lu said. “But just like Japan’s announcement that PLA missiles had flown over Taiwan [during island blockade drill]he must reveal the details because Tokyo reported it.”

Early last month, a BZK-005 and a TB-001 were first spotted by the Japan Self-Defense Forces flying over the waters off the northeast coast of Taiwan in the East China Sea. Both drones have been used by the Chinese military in maritime surveillance operations over the East China Sea since at least April 2019.

The BZK-005 is a reconnaissance aircraft with an estimated range of 2,400 km (1,490 miles) and a maximum flight time of 40 hours.

The TB-001, nicknamed the double-tailed scorpion, is a combat and spy drone developed by civil company Sichuan Tengden Technology. It has a range of approximately 6,000 km and a maximum flight time of 35 hours.

Chinese UAV TB-001

A Chinese TB-001 drone photographed by the Japanese military over the Western Pacific on August 30, 2022.

Japanese Ministry of Defense


In late July, while Taiwan was conducting its annual Han Kuang military exercises, the Japanese spotted a TB-001 in the Miyako Strait off Okinawa and then tracked it to a location off the west coast of Taiwan.

To defend the Quemoy and Matsu archipelagos, which are less than 10 km (6 miles) from the mainland coast, the Taiwanese military has started deploying its CS/MPQ-90 Bee Eye radars to help frontline troops detect upcoming PLA drones and spy planes, United Daily News reported. .

Taiwan also plans to spend nearly $700 million to buy four American MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones, but they will take years to deliver, the Taipei-based China Times reported on Friday.

With a range of up to 6,000 km and 40 flight hours, the Taiwanese military hopes the MQ-9B can help it better monitor the seas.

“Compared to the PLA’s multi-role drones, the MQ-9B could play the defensive role of maritime patrols, which is the only choice for Taiwan,” said Zhou Chenming, a researcher with the science and science think tank. Yuan Wang military technologies.

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