A Wing Loong unmanned aerial vehicle and missiles. (Photo/Xinhua)
Unmanned aerial vehicles could be used by China and Japan in a conflict over the disputed Diaoyu (Diaoyutai or Senkaku) islands, according to an article written by military analyst Zheng Wenhao for the state news agency Xinhua.
In the article published on Xinhua's website on Sept. 25, Zheng made reference to Tokyo's declaration that it will from now on shoot down any Chinese drone that entered Japanese airspace, adding that unmanned aerial vehicles are now more likely to be used by both sides.
Zheng said large surveillance drones such as the US RQ-4 Global Hawk and China's Xianglong drone are not armed and thus no aerial combat will take place if they encounter each other. However, smaller drones carrying missiles and bombs may be used by China and Japan against each other in a local conflict.
With a range of 20,000 kilometers, the US Global Hawk can stay in the air for nearly 30 hours and can also reach an altitude of 20,000 meters. According to Zheng, Japan is working hard to buy the drone from the United States amid rising tensions with China over the disputed island chain. Taking off from Okinawa, the Global Hawk would be able to monitor movements of the PLA Air Force and Navy.
Zheng said that missiles are not the only way for Japan to take down Chinese drones, as they can also be paralyzed by the electronic warfare aircraft of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The disputed islands are controlled by Japan, which refers to them as Senkaku, and also claimed by Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyutai.