A long-range Chinese combat drone capable of carrying a large weapons payload has circled Taiwan, the island’s defence ministry said Friday.

Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an attack by Beijing, which views the island as part of its territory.

Taiwan flag
Photo: Taiwan Office of the President, via Flickr.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected 38 Chinese aircraft, including a TB-001 drone nicknamed the “twin-tailed scorpion”, around the island between 6:00 am (1000 GMT) Thursday and 6:00 am Friday.

The drone’s circling flight path saw it cross the median line — an unofficial boundary dividing the Taiwan Strait — to the island’s south before flying around its east coast and returning to China, a map released by the ministry showed.

Local media said it was the first time Taiwan’s defence ministry had reported a Chinese military aircraft circling the island from one end of the median line to the other.

The ministry added that 19 of the aircraft had “crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or entered Taiwan’s southwest, southeast, and northeast (air defence identification zone)”, the highest number of incursions since China ended three days of war games earlier this month.

The TB-001 is one of the largest drones in China’s military arsenal and boasts a flight range of 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles).

A TB-001 drone
A TB-001 drone. File photo: Infinty 0, via Wikicommons.

China previously deployed the drone during the military drills that ended on April 10 and involved simulating targeted strikes and a blockade of Taiwan.

The war games were a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the United States, where she met Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

On the last day of the drills, Beijing sent 54 aircraft into the island’s southwestern and southeastern air defence identification zone (ADIZ), the highest number recorded in a single day since October 2021.

The zone is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace and includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own ADIZ and even some of the mainland.

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s military said it would practise intercepting warships and combat a Chinese blockade of the island during annual war drills in July.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.