China is advancing its development and employment of UAVs. Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and seabased unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023. During 2013, China began incorporating its UAVs into military exercises and conducted ISR over the East China Sea with the BZK-005 UAV. In 2013, China unveiled details of four UAVs under development—the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian. The last three of which are designed to carry precision-strike capable weapons. The Lijian, which first flew on November 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.
The $10.5 billion budget would suggest that most of the UAVs would be mid to lowend systems.
Chinese drone models on display at the Zhuhai show included the CH-4 and the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, described as apparent clones of the US Reaper and Predator drones; the Xianglong, or Soaring Dragon, that appears modeled after the US RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The Pentagon itself only operates 7,000 aerial drones, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although others have estimated it has more. The estimate of 7,000 drones also doesn’t include underwater UAVs.