wantchinatimes.com A Wing Loong combat drone at the Zhuhai Air Show, Nov. 13, 2012. (Photo/Xinhua) Various types of Chinese-designed drones have been deployed to units of the People's Liberation Army across the nation's seven major military regions, according to the PLA Daily, the official paper of the country's armed forces, on Nov. 15. After Japan nationalized the disputed Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands in the East China Sea in September last year, the role of drones within the PLA has increased gradually. In response to the recent declaration by the Japanese government that any Chinese drones intruding on its airspace would be shot down, PLA General Wang Hongguang said China will continue to send unmanned aerial vehicles over the disputed islands. Wang also said that PLA fighter may also be dispatched to escort drones if they come under fire. PLA Daily said drones designed to undertake different types of mission have been deployed to all of China's seven major military regions: Beijing, Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Most of the drones the PLA currently operates are designed for aerial reconnaissance, battlefield observation and damage assessment. It is still unknown whether China has drones with the ability to carry out long-range reconnaissance or attack missions. A new drone named the Changhang was recently shown on the website of the Chinese military with a similar design to the Global Hawk long-range surveillance drone of the United States. Though detailed information regarding the drone remains secret, the Changhang along with other drones such as the Wing Loong, Soar Dragon and Lijian stands as evidence that China has the capacity to design and produced advanced drones like the United States and Israel. Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine based in Beijing, said the Wing Loong drone designed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China is very similar to the concept of the US MQ-1 Predator. It is not only able to conduct battlefield reconnaissance missions but can also launch tactical missile strikes, Wang added. For this reason, Wang said there is no problem for China to develop a world-class medium-range drone with attack capability.
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