Saturday, June 29, 2013

Aerial Drones Part IV: Made in China

It should not be surprising that the Chinese have jumped enthusiastically on the aerial drone bandwagon.

Models of Chinese-made drones

With the market for these unmanned aerial reconnaissance, observation and attack vehicles exploding here in the US, it only makes sense that the Chinese want a piece of the high-dollar action.

During a Mainland technology trade show, Chinese companies recently displayed a striking number of UAVs. Some of the models looked a bit too-much like those assembled by US factories.

And what might be the reason for their drones resembling American-made craft?

Since 2006, an adventurous cadre of malicious Mandarins has hacked into the databases of over 140 companies, including those focusing on aerospace and defense initiatives, and absconded with hundreds of terabytes of somewhat-classified information. Mandiant, an information-security service group, continues to monitor this little spy ring.

Now isn't it interesting that this information has been used not by the Chinese military but by industrial entrepreneurs to sell this information as well as the UAV technologies that goes with it to the highest PRC bidder?

A greater irony is that the money awarded to these spies has come from a nifty percentage of the US dollars traded for Sino-made goods? Yes, that's right. Foxconn along with dozens other China-based companies are reaping the rewards for the heisted technological secrets.

It wouldn't surprise me that the Obama administration will soon shrewdly decide to buy these Chinese-made drones over those more-expensive UAVs produced by US laborers.

Take, for example, the two most-prominent drones in China’s inventory: the CH-4 and Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl. Both closely resemble the US’s MQ-9 Reaper which serves as the US’s main attack drone and is itself a larger version of the better-known MQ-1 Predator. The Pterodactyl, which is believed to have been tested carrying out ground strikes with anti-tank guided missiles, has a flying time of 20 hours and a range of 4,000 kilometers.

Considering that the average Chinese factory worker makes about 1/10th of that of the union-proud American laborer points even more-strongly to this obvious conclusion. In the midst of threatened military budget cuts, why not exchange even more American debt for Chinese-made aerial drones?

Nor is China’s deployment of home-made but cloned UAVs limited to the military realm. The government of Liaoning Province appears to be using UAVs to monitor the North Korean border. That's right! The PRC is actually spying on their North Korean brothers! China is also said to be establishing two coastal UAV bases from which it will oversee its areas of jurisdiction in the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. Meanwhile, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) – one of China’s main maritime agencies – announced in August that it is setting up 11 UAV bases, one in each of China’s coastal provinces. It expects to have these bases up and running by 2015.

So what is the Obama Administration doing to foment the PRC's drone activities? Let's take a look at what's happening in the Philippines.

At a naval base around 13 kilometres (eight miles) southwest of the capital Manila, US Navy SEALs have been training Filipino soldiers in the use of drones. Part of the training includes launching one from a boat out at sea after which it has circled the base and landed in the water. US maritime civil affairs officer Jeremy Eden said these were the smaller Puma drones used only for surveillance and not the more lethal, armed versions, like the Predator, employed in Afghanistan. "They (the Filipinos) are very interested and highly motivated to learn and if they acquire the systems, they will use them effectively," Eden said.

"Say what? You mean those things fly on their own?"

My my! Isn't that encouraging news? The Filipino military is using US-made drones to gain greater awareness of the PRC's use of Sino-made UAVs ... drones that have been constructed with the help of US technology stolen by Chinese hackers?

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