The Pentagon's annual report on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) revealed China's plan to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms.
The report released on Friday added that apart from operating many armed and unarmed China drone aircraft, China is also developing long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence gathering as well as bombing attacks.
"The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China's ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations," the report said.
China's ability to use drones is increasing and it "plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023."
Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons.
“The United States and China acknowledge that the Chinese tested a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2014,” the report noted. It was the first time the Pentagon confirmed the existence of Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle, a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly 10 times the speed of sound. "The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China's first stealthy flying wing UAV," the report said.
Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst was quoted as saying by World Tribune that the report is the Pentagon’s most detailed assessment in recent years. “By far it is the most detailed PLA report in terms of explaining near to medium term threat vectors but does not venture enough into the far term, the later 2020s and beyond,” said Fisher.
The report also stressed the threat that Taiwan is facing and concluded that the PL A “is pursuing modernization on a scale unprecedented in its history.”