The NYT has an article about a Chinese exhibit showcasing that country’s pursuit of drone-based air power:
“This is the direction all aviation is going,” said Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University who studies the legal questions surrounding the use of drones in warfare. “Everybody will wind up using this technology because it’s going to become the standard for many, many applications of what are now manned aircraft.”
Military planners worldwide see drones as relatively cheap weapons and highly effective reconnaissance tools. Hand-launched ones used by ground troops can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Near the top of the line, the Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, costs about $10.5 million. By comparison, a single F-22 fighter jet costs about $150 million.
The video at the exhibit shows a jet-powered MQ-9 equivalent targeting a military-style jeep in the middle of some trackless waste, which is all very good I suppose, as far as it goes. But China has no need to plink solitary vehicles in the middle of nowhere.
At the 2:30 mark we see an aircraft carrier and her accompanying escorts targeted for destruction, which probably hits a nearer mark to Chinese naval strategy.
The crucial flaw in the Dong Feng DF-21D “carrier killer” missile system has always been locating data. A long-range, low observable drone that could provide such data to missile batteries ashore could be an important element in an anti-access/area denial capability.
Contra the video, it will not, I suspect, use a line-of-sight link back to the shore to transport that data.
I’m just saying.