China’s armed drones appear built from stolen data from US cyber intrusions

China is also using them to engage in the Middle East war.



China’s vibrant military blogosphere presented a video this month revealing a missile-firing unmanned aerial vehicle in action, dropping bombs against ground targets.

The Caihong-4, or CH-4, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is a testament to the remarkable success of China’s military in copying vital high-technology weapons that currently are considered among the most cutting edge arms systems used in modern combat operations for both ground strikes and intelligence-gathering.

The one-minute, 37-second online posting shows takeoffs and landings of the drone. It was uploaded to the video-sharing website Youku Dec. 17. According to the blogger who posted it, the video was produced by 11th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, a drone developer and manufacturer.

Photo analysis of the CH-4 shows the remote-controlled aircraft is very similar to the US military’s front-line combat UAV, the MQ-9 Reaper.

Both aircraft are about the same size and wing-span and both sport identical V-tails, landing gear, imaging pods and propeller-driven rear engines.

The only major difference is the Predator’s engine intake is located on top of the aircraft while the CH-4’s is underneath.

Drones are not the only aircraft compromised by Chinese cyber spies. NSA identified numerous compromises other aircraft, including the B-2 bomber, the F-22 jet and frontline F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – all targeted by 3PLA since the early 2000s.

The F-35 compromises were believed to have been carried out through a non-US subcontractor involved in development of the aircraft. The subcontractor was targeted in a Chinese cyber spying operation that obtained secrets on the advanced radar and engine designs – key radar-evading stealth features.

The F-35 losses were assessed by US intelligence agencies to have been incorporated into China’s new J-20 stealth fighter jet currently in development.

For the United States, large-scale Chinese cyber spying against American high-technology arms remains a strategic vulnerability.

US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work announced in early December that the next defense budget will include some $15 billion for begin funding what the Pentagon is calling its “Third Offset Strategy” – defenses designed to leverage American weapons technology advantages to offset increasingly lethal enemy military capabilities. A key element of the offset is to use autonomous weapons, like UAVs.

But if the Pentagon cannot protect its weapons know-how from the 3PLA and other foreign cyber spies its advantages are likely to quickly evaporate.

Full article: China’s armed drones appear built from stolen data from US cyber intrusions (Asia Times)

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