Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence reported that between 6:00 a.m. on Thursday (April 27) and 6:00 a.m. on Friday (April 28), 38 sorties of mainland army aircraft were detected, 19 of which crossed the central line of the Taiwan Strait and its extension line into the southwest and southeast And northeast airspace, six mainland warships continued to operate around the Taiwan Strait. One of the TB-001 drones almost circled Taiwan.
Based on the “Activity Map of the People’s Liberation Army’s Entry into the Taiwan Strait Peripheral Airspace” by the Taiwan military, Jie Zhong, deputy researcher of the National Policy Foundation, noted that one TB-001 drone entered from the southwest airspace and flew around the southern, southeastern, and northeastern airspace of Taiwan before crossing the centerline in a “reverse” manner. The PLA’s action demonstrated the long-distance flight capabilities of the TB-001 drone and enhanced its military capability by exploiting a flight path that has been relatively uncommon in recent years.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia, he pointed out that the TB-001’s circumnavigation of Taiwan has three implications: first, it defines the range; second, drones are cost-effective, and the Communist Party has previously stated that they are “small, efficient, fast, and decisive.” The use of drones has the lowest cost and no flight risk. The TB-001 can fly around Taiwan’s airspace, about 2,000 kilometres long, even with heavy loads, and can fly for more than 20 hours. In contrast, Taiwan’s fighter jets take 1.5 hours from takeoff to return, which is already very tight. Finally, the PLA chose the best weather in recent days to “circle Taiwan.” Its electro-optical camera can capture Taiwan’s mountain range, coastline, and sea surface from high altitudes, achieving a significant propaganda effect.
This type of long-distance drone flight depends on two capabilities: the positioning capability of the Beidou satellite and the ZTE series of more than 20 communication satellites. Su Ziyun stated that it could remotely control drones, integrate technology, and test battlefield environments.
Su Ziyun believes Taiwan does not need to be overly concerned about the so-called “circumnavigation” because the TB-001 drone is simple to interfere with and shoot down. It is at the most displaying political signals as it circles the island.
Tengden TB-001 Twin-tailed Scorpion
The TB001 drone, also called Twin-tailed Scorpion, is an assault and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for the PLA’s domestic use and for export to foreign clients. The UAV is positioned as a “bomber” and “interceptor” of short-range missiles. It debuted in September 2017 and has served numerous People’s Liberation Army units since 2021. It remains unclear which services and organisations of the PLA it pertains to. It has flown over the Taiwan Strait’s centre line and the Miyako Strait. On numerous occasions, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have photographed it. Saudi Arabia purchased its production line for 200 million US dollars during the 2022 Zhuhai Air Show, proving that the drone’s performance is popular.
Sichuan Tengdeng Technology Company manufactures the medium-altitude, long-endurance TB001 combat reconnaissance drone. Tendeng Technology is a branch of China’s 611 Research Institute in Chengdu. Several large drone models, such as the TB001 combat drone, are among its primary products.
The TB-001 combat drone has a twin-tail boom design, with two tail booms extending rearward from the wing to support two vertical tails, which are united at the top to form a framework for the tail boom, vertical tail, and horizontal stabiliser.
According to its manufacturer’s website, the TB-001 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV with three propellers. It has a maximum launch weight of 3,250 kilograms, a maximum range of 7,200 kilometres, a maximum flight duration of 36 hours, a maximum speed of 360 kilometres per hour, and a service ceiling of 10,000 metres.
The enormous drone has a wing span of 20 metres, a length of 10 metres, and a height of 3.3 metres.
The fuselage contains the retractable nose landing gear, satellite-controlled linkage, data link, flight control system, mission equipment, as well as the stabilised electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) tower and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) module and other payloads specified by the client.
When displayed on the ground at the 2017 CAEXPO air show, it was equipped with an infrared/electro-optical camera module. In addition, the latest report from the US Department of Defence confirms that a twin-engine TW356 transporting a large cargo pod between its two large-engine nacelles was displayed alongside an armed variant of the TW328. Regarding its armament, the TW356 has two hardpoints under its wings that can transport 1,200 kilograms of payload. A three-engine configuration has also been flown.
Air-to-surface missiles, including the FT-8D, FT-9, and FT-10D, the FT-7 glide bomb, and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s (CASIC) C-702K anti-ship missile and CM-502KG precision missile for ground attack have been confirmed to have been carried by the TW328.
It is believed that on August 4, 2022, a TB-001 flying near Japan transmitted live video of the impacts of ballistic missiles.