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Chinese UAVs encircle Taiwan

The Chinese circumnavigation flights around Taiwan using UAVs on 27 April and 2 May show that Beijing has increased confidence in these aircraft's capabilities and endurance. (Taiwan MND/Japan MoD/Janes)

Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have encircled Taiwan twice in a one-week period.

The flights suggest that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is expanding the scope of its incursions into Taiwan's air-defence identification zone (ADIZ).

The PLA has earlier conducted encircling flights around Taiwan, using XAC H-6 bombers, according to the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND). However, the latest UAV flights are unique. They are the first recorded PLA circumnavigation flights since the MND began disclosing ADIZ incursions in September 2020. They are also the first to involve UAVs.

The first of the recent encirclement flights happened between 0600 h local time on 27 April and 0600 h local time on 28 April, the MND said. According to a map of the incursions released by the MND on 28 April, a Tengden TB-001 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) was monitored as it flew in a counterclockwise movement south of the median line. The UCAV flew near the southern and eastern edges of the ADIZ. It subsequently flew north, passing near Japan's Yonaguni island before crossing the median line – on its way back to mainland China.

The median line, which is positioned over the centre of the Taiwan Strait, is the de facto border between China and Taiwan.

The TB-001's outbound flightpath shows that it flew towards China's Zhejiang province. According to data held byJanes Satellite Imagery Analysis (JSIA), TB-001s were observed in January 2023 at Dongyang Air Base, about 345 km southwest of Shanghai.

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