A U.S. company has released satellite images of the supersonic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) WZ-8 parked at an airbase in eastern China.
According to Defense News, the satellite images provided by the U.S.-based company Planet Labs show the WZ-8 reconnaissance UAV parked outside one of the two newly constructed aircraft hangars at an airbase in Anhui Province, China. The date of the captured image is December 21, 2022.
Last month, leaked images from a classified U.S. military document also showed two WZ-8s parked at an airbase. According to the document, the WZ-8 is capable of flying at Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound, at an altitude of approximately 30km.
The WZ-8 made its debut during the military parade commemorating National Day in Beijing on October 1, 2019. At that time, the WZ-8 was described as a “high-speed reconnaissance UAV,” but there were no detailed specifications available.
When the WZ-8 was showcased at the AirShow China aviation exhibition in Zhuhai in 2021, the aircraft had already been put into service with the Chinese Air Force and was capable of conducting reconnaissance and assessing advanced combat damage, according to Chinese state media.
Chinese TV channel CCTV quoted Chinese military expert Du Wenlong as saying that the WZ-8 could “play a special role in large-scale and high-speed reconnaissance operations.” This UAV can accurately locate targets, including aircraft carriers, and pose challenges to the opponent’s air defense system without being detected or intercepted.
China has emphasized the importance of unmanned aerial vehicles in military exercises around Taiwan, and these aircraft are expected to play a significant role in monitoring and sealing off islands.
Military commentator Song Zhongping believes that the United States will certainly pay attention to the WZ-8 due to its stealth and supersonic capabilities, as well as increasing concerns about China’s advanced combat capabilities.
“This UAV has stealth and high-speed features, which means it has strong penetration capabilities and is difficult for the opponent to intercept or detect,” said Song.
China is considered a world leader in UAV development, second only to the United States. In the past decade, Chinese companies have delivered 220 UAVs to 16 countries, mainly in the Middle East and Africa, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Chinese UAVs are becoming popular in the global market and are being purchased by many countries, but they are believed to contain special technology that prevents them from being used in attacks against China’s territory.
According to an anonymous source close to the Chinese military, this is the “special surveillance technology” applied to all Chinese military and reconnaissance UAV products.