GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images
- A 21-year-old airman at a National Guard unit in Massachusetts leaked military intelligence online.
- Some of the documents showed China’s plans for a supersonic drone, The Washington Post reported.
- China’s WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones can travel three times the speed of sound.
One of the documents included in a trove of leaked military intelligence posted online by a 21-year-old airman at a National Guard unit in Massachusetts included apparent plans from China’s Ministry of National Defense to advance its surveillance capabilities with supersonic reconnaissance drones.
The leaked documents, reportedly from the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, come as military tensions between mainland China and neighboring Taiwan have been escalating: Just last week, the Chinese military released a video showing what an attack on the island nation would look like, Insider previously reported.
The Washington Post first reported on the secret document, which indicates the Chinese military is making technological advances with its surveillance programs that could help the country “target American warships around Taiwan and military bases in the region.”
Satellite imagery included in the documents, dated August 9, 2022, show two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base approximately 350 miles from Shanghai, the outlet reported. The cutting-edge drones, which are launched from bomber planes, are capable of traveling three times the speed of sound, according to the documents — slightly slower than the US’s mysterious Lockheed Martin SR-72 Blackbird, which Lockheed claims reaches speeds of Mach 6.
The drones could assist China in real-time mapping that would inform strategy or enable high-speed missile strikes in a future conflict, The Washington Post reported.
Taiwan’s air force has a slew of gaping vulnerabilities against a potential Chinese invasion. It’s highly likely Beijing would achieve air superiority quickly if it goes to war across the strait, Insider previously reported.
The WZ-8 drones were introduced in 2019 during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, but few military analysts believed they were fully functional at the time, The Washington Post reported. The documents reported on by the outlet included flight paths for the drone, as well as the bomber plane used to launch the device.
Representatives for the Department of Defense and China’s Ministry of National Defense did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.