China’s drone near Philippines coincides with India’s BrahMos delivery, US drills

A WZ-7 Soaring Dragon drone of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was spotted flying in close proximity to the Philippines, ahead of preparations by the Southeast Asian country to receive the delivery of Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, The Eurasian Times reported.

According to the report, the distinctive joined-wing shape of the WZ-7 drone caught the attention of Raffy Tima, a correspondent for Philippine news organisation GMA News, as it traversed the skies over the West Philippine Sea, an area within the South China Sea to the northwest of the Philippines.

The timing of this sighting is significant amid escalating tensions between China and the Philippines over territorial disputes, notably the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, in the South China Sea, the report noted.

The acquisition of the BrahMos missiles from India is perceived as a strategic move by the Philippines to enhance its defensive capabilities to counter China’s assertiveness in the region.

Procured as part of the ‘Horizon 2’ Priority Projects aimed at modernising the Philippine armed forces, the BrahMos missile system arrived in Manila on April 19.

The delivery, facilitated through a government-to-government (G2G) deal, encompasses three missile batteries, operator and maintainer training, and an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.

Each missile battery typically comprises three mobile autonomous launchers with two or three missile tubes each, accompanied by the requisite tracking systems, The Eurasian Times reported.

The sighting of the WZ-7 drone coinciding with the arrival of Indian transport planes carrying the BrahMos missiles could be construed as an intriguing coincidence.

Notably, this occurrence precedes the commencement of the ‘Balikatan 2024’ drills between the Philippines and the US.

The jet-powered WZ-7, flown by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has a service ceiling of over 60,000 feet and a range of about 4,350 miles.

Although estimations made accessible to the public indicate a minimum endurance of 10 hours, actual flight times may be far longer, the report by The EurAsian Times claimed.

In 2022, the same drone was seen flying near the Taiwan Strait, amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.

The same report claimed further that the WZ-7 was detected by Taiwan in the seas, thereby pointing to the presence of PLA troops near Taiwan.

During these anticipated exercises, military forces are poised to engage in activities such as target ship sinking, island reclamation, and naval operations in waters adjacent to the South China Sea.

Of particular concern to China is the deployment of the new Typhon ground-based missile system by the US on the northern Philippine Island of Luzon, The Eurasian Times reported.

As tensions persist in the West Philippine Sea, characterised by competing territorial claims and military maneuvers, the convergence of these events underscores the delicate geopolitical dynamics shaping the region.