China is building one of the world’s largest drone fleets aimed at expanding its military reach in the Pacific and swarming U.S. Navy carriers in the unlikely event of a war, according to a new report.
The Chinese military — known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — envisions its drone swarms scouting out battlefields, guiding missile strikes and overwhelming opponents through sheer numbers. China’s military-industrial complex has created a wide array of homegrown drones to accomplish those goals over the past decade, according to the report released by the Project 2049 Institute on March 11.
“The PLA now fields one of the world’s most expansive UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] fleets,” said Ian Easton and L.C. Russell Hsiao, researchers at the Project 2049 Institute and authors of the new report.
U.S. military forces still operate the largest drone fleet, with at least 679 drones in 2012, according to data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported by the Guardian. But the new Project 2049 Institute report estimates that China had 280 military drones as of mid-2011 — a number that has likely grown since then