Home Air In a first, Japan intercepts Chinese WZ-7 HALE UAS over East China...

In a first, Japan intercepts Chinese WZ-7 HALE UAS over East China Sea

Photo: Japan defense ministry

Japan’s defense ministry revealed on January 1 it had intercepted a Chinese Guizhou WZ-7 Soaring Dragon HALE UAS in what it said was the first intercept of this kind.

The intercept took place in the Miyako Strait, as the aircraft flew in from the East China Sea, passing between the main islands of Okinawa and Miyakojima.

After reaching the Pacific Ocean and flying over the Pacific Ocean south of the Sakishima Islands, it reversed and returned.

A day later, on January 2, Japan confirmed that another WZ-7 transited from East China Sea via the Miyako Strait. On both occasions, fighters from Japan’s Southwestern Air Command Support Flight scrambled to intercept the drone.

Japan said the events marked the first time the platform has been observed performing these flights around Japan. The UAS did not enter Japanese airspace.

While the WZ-7 is flying over the Miyako Strait, Chinese PLA Navy’s Liaoning carrier strike group (CSG) has entered the East China Sea, having previously spent two weeks in the Philippine Sea.

According to information provided by Japan’s defense ministry, ships in the Chinese carrier strike group include destroyer CNS Chengdu, cruisers CNS Anshan and CNS Wuxi (104), as well as the frigate CNS Zhaozhuang and combat support ship CNS Hulunhu.

China’s “joined-wing” WZ-7 is a relatively new platform, having entered service in 2018. Its missions are similar to those performed by the United States’ RQ-4 Global Hawk.

It is worth noting with a considerably smaller wingspan than the Global Hawk, China’s WZ-7 has a 4,300 mile range, compared to the 14,200 mile range of the Global Hawk.

While its primary role is aerial reconnaissance, WZ-7 is said to be capable of providing targeting data for missile strikes.