EASTON & HSIAO I OP 13-001
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s UAV Project
Revolutionary advances in unmannedtechnologies and the prospects offered by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) insurveillance, targeting and attack appearto have captured the attention of seniorcivilian and defense officials in the
People’s Republic of Chi
na (PRC).Indeed, the PRC government is invest-ing considerable resources into UAV capabilities as part of a broader effort to
modernize China’s military and secure
the interests of the Chinese CommunistParty (CCP) leadership in Beijing. Given
the PRC’s e
xpanding strategic interests,and the associated requirement for animproved command, control, commun-ications, computers, intelligence, sur- veillance, and reconnaissance (C
ISR)infrastructure, UAVs represent atransformational capability for theChinese military.Technological advances have accelerated
China’s emergence as an economic,
political and military power. China isalready considered a regional economicand political powerhouse, and itsmilitary strength is growing to match itsstature in these other arenas. However,given Chin
assertiveness inenforcing its disputed territorial claimsalong its periphery, these trends seem tosuggest a worrisome future outlook forthe region. An enhanced C
ISR network may encourage CCP leaders to acceptgreater risk in resolving sovereignty andterritorial disputes.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army
(PLA) appears to be fielding operationalUAV capabilities that could havesignificant future regional security implications. In order to support
efforts to become a world-class leader inunmanned technology, the PLA hasdeveloped an extensive and organiza-tionally complex UAV infrastructureover the past decade. This programincludes national-level organizationstasked with developing joint UAV mission requirements; an advancedmilitary-industrial design, research anddevelopment (R&D), and productioninfrastructure; and a growing number of operational UAV units under the PLA Second Artillery, Air Force, Navy, andground forces.UAV systems may emerge as the criticalenabler for PLA long range precisionstrike missions within a 3000 kilometerradius of Chinese shores. Emphasis onreducing the radar cross section of new UAV designs indicate an intent tosurvive in contested or denied airspace.This study surveys publically availablematerials in an attempt to addressseveral key questions regarding the
PLA’s UAV program. These questions
What organizations and individuals
are the PRC’s natio
nal-level authorit-ies for developing UAV relatedpolicies and mission requirements?
What are the primary missionrequirements of
the PLA’s UAVs?
What are the primary military-industrial organizations responsiblefor the design, R&D, and productionof
the PLA’s UAVs? Who leads these
What operational UAV units arecurrently active in the PLA? Whatare their missions and capabilities?
How might the PLA’s UAV
capabilities evolve in the yearsahead, and how might they impactregional security in the Asia-Pacific?