China has said the US approval of a $600 Million MQ-9B Armed-reconnaissance Drone sale to Taiwan will pose no threat to the mainland as its weapons have a limited range and the slow-flying drone itself can be easily tracked.
“Taiwan is only paying a lot of protection money to the US, while also becoming a tool in the current US administration's re-election campaign. Taiwan's military will likely use the drones to spy on the Chinese mainland and provide intelligence to the US military,” experts quoted in Global Times said
“The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) of four Weapons-ready MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft for an estimated cost of $600 million,” a Pentagon announcement said Tuesday.
Chinese media said Tuesday that the US-made drones will not enable the military on the island to rival the Chinese Army, and the arms sale mainly serves as a card in the US presidential election with Taiwan being used as a tool.
TECRO has requested to buy four Weapons-Ready MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft; Ground Control Stations; Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigations Systems; MX-20 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems and spares; SeaVue Maritime Multi-Role Patrol Radars; SAGE 750 Electronic Surveillance Measures Systems and ground terminals.
Significantly the package does not include missiles that go with the armed drones. The missiles could be part of another sale in future.
“The island of Taiwan will likely only use the MQ-9B for reconnaissance function only, because it can only carry small air-to-ground missiles with a limited range and cannot threaten the PLA,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The drones could be deployed near the Chinese mainland and in key straits and channels like the Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel to monitor PLA's activities.
Since the MQ-9 does not have stealth capability, and it flies at a low speed and altitude, it cannot penetrate the air defense systems of the PLA, as it would be easily shot down, Chinese military aviation expert Fu Qianshao told the Global Times.
Without naming China, the Pentagon announcement said that the proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, and counter-land, counter-sea, and anti-submarine strike capabilities for its security and defense. The capability is a deterrent to regional threats and will strengthen the recipient’s self-defense.
Taiwan is bolstering its defenses against a possible Chinese invasion for years now. Its indigenous equipment such as the Hsiung Feng III Anti-ship missile have been supplemented by heavy arms purchases from US.