PLA Air Force sets up anti-drone unit

Updated: 2016-02-19 07:59

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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A specialized unit dedicated to detecting and dealing with small unmanned aircraft has been set up within the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

Its main focus is small, slow-moving drones flying at an altitude of less than 1,000 meters, the PLA Air Force said in a news release on Thursday - without revealing how many such targets had been engaged or when the unit was set up.

Small drones can pose a substantial threat to key positions as their size makes them difficult to detect with radar, the news release explained.

To combat this, the unit performs drills against a squadron equipped with multiple types of drones to simulate reconnaissance, infiltration or strike operations.

Unit commander Liu Hui was quoted as saying that his men have been closely following developments in the aviation industry and keep improving their drone database.

As unmanned aircraft have become increasingly popular in China, their use has sometimes brought civilians and businesses into conflict with the police, civil aviation and military authorities.

In November, a PLA Air Force helicopter unit in Hebei province discovered a drone flying near a military airport without authorization.

The aircraft was grounded and soldiers were sent to assist the police, who apprehended the drone's operators.

Further investigation found that the drone was owned by an aviation technology company in Beijing that had not requested prior approval for the flight from any civil aviation or military authority.

In another case, a video clip that was published online showing a drone flying near a manned fighter jet as it came in to land drew criticism from the military, as such actions compromise both the safety of the aircraft and people on the ground, the PLA Daily reported.

Armed military drones are known to have been used by a host of nations, including the United States, Britain, Israel, Iraq and Pakistan.

Other countries also reportedly have versions of these aircraft in development, leading to increased research into various anti-drone technologies, from electronic jamming to directed-energy weapons.

Several high-tech devices include the US Army's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator and the US Navy's "Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move" weapons, both of which are reportedly under development or testing.

Meanwhile, Russia's United Instrument Manufacturing Corp, part of the state-owned Rostec Corp, has designed a futuristic ray gun capable of deactivating drones, Russia's Sputnik News Agency previously reported.