In a push towards redefining its military operations, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is aiming to replace human agents with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in special operations by 2035.
The initiative is a bold move away from conventional combat tactics, traditionally reliant on human special forces. The PLA’s 78092 unit, in collaboration with scientists, is aiming to develop sophisticated drones capable of executing a wide range of tasks including long-range flights, underwater operations, and extended surveillance missions. These drones are being designed to strike with high precision and then retreat without detection.
The shift to UAVs is not merely a technological upgrade but a strategic recalibration of China’s military doctrine, emphasizing non-interference and operational secrecy. A hypothetical operation detailed for the year 2035 illustrates the potential of these drones in a small-scale conflict scenario. It envisions drones conducting sabotage missions with minimal equipment, focusing on stealth and precision to achieve objectives without escalating conflicts or incurring heavy cost.
China’s approach to UAV development is informed by a desire to not only match but surpass global counterparts, particularly the United States. By capitalizing on its robust civilian drone manufacturing sector, China aims to achieve a dual goal of technological superiority and cost-effectiveness.