China’s Supersonic Spy Drone: A Blast from the Past?

Lockheed D-21

China’s latest supersonic spy drone, the WZ-8, has raised eyebrows due to its striking resemblance to the Lockheed D-21, a supersonic reconnaissance drone that crashed in China in 1971. The similarities between the two drones have sparked questions about the origins of the WZ-8’s design and its capabilities.

Design and Capabilities:

  • The WZ-8 has a delta-wing design, similar to the D-21, and is approximately 37 feet long with a wingspan of 22 feet.
  • It is powered by two rocket motors and can reach speeds of up to Mach 6 and altitudes of 160,000 feet.
  • The WZ-8 features a daylight electro-optical sensor and synthetic aperture radar, similar to the D-21’s sensor suite.

Launch and Recovery:

  • Like the D-21, the WZ-8 requires a mothership for launch, specifically an H-6M strategic bomber.
  • After completing its mission, the WZ-8 returns to Chinese coastal airfields, where it is loaded back onto an H-6M bomber for return to its base.

Operational Unit:

  • Leaked US intelligence documents suggest that China has established its first operational WZ-8 unit at Liuan Airfield, which falls under the Eastern Theatre Command responsible for enforcing Chinese sovereignty claims over Taiwan.

Speculated Missions:

  • The WZ-8’s capabilities and operational unit suggest potential missions include high-altitude reconnaissance flights over the South Korean coast and Taiwan, as well as tracking US carrier battle groups in the Pacific in real-time.

FAQs:

  1. What is the WZ-8 supersonic spy drone?
    The WZ-8 is China’s latest supersonic spy drone, capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 6 and altitudes of 160,000 feet.
  2. What is the Lockheed D-21?
    The Lockheed D-21 is a supersonic reconnaissance drone that was developed by the United States in the 1960s and crashed in China in 1971.
  3. What are the similarities between the WZ-8 and the D-21?
    Both drones have a delta-wing design, are powered by rocket motors, and feature similar sensor suites.
  4. What is the operational unit of the WZ-8?
    The WZ-8 is operated by the Eastern Theatre Command, which is responsible for enforcing Chinese sovereignty claims over Taiwan.
  5. What are the speculated missions of the WZ-8?
    Potential missions include high-altitude reconnaissance flights over the South Korean coast and Taiwan, as well as tracking US carrier battle groups in the Pacific in real-time.

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