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Leaked map shows 'notional' route of Chinese supersonic drones over Taiwan

WZ-8 supersonic drone capable of flying Mach 3 at an altitude of over 100,000 feet

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WZ-8 supersonic drone. (YouTube, CCTV screenshot)

WZ-8 supersonic drone. (YouTube, CCTV screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A leaked map reveals specifications on China's supersonic, high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the WZ-8, its base, "notional" flight path over Taiwan and South Korea, and airfields where it could land.

Among the classified documents leaked by 21-year-old Air National guardsman Jack Teixeira onto a Discord server is a map from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency detailing information about the WZ-8, according to the Washington Post. The document is marked "secret" and is titled "China: PLA Almost Certainly Establishes First Supersonic UAV Unit, Improving ISR Capabilities," with ISR referring to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations.

The report estimates the WZ-8 high-altitude, supersonic UAV can fly at a speed of Mach 3, far faster than other drones in China's fleet, such as the WZ-7, which only reaches Mach 0.8. It can also soar to an altitude of 30 kilometers (100,000 feet), greatly surpassing the WZ-7's maximum ceiling of 18 km (60,000 feet).

The agency believes the UAV engine uses rocket fuel. Experts from the agency assess that the UAV is incapable of taking off under its own power and instead must be launched from a H-6M Badger Bomber. Its sensors are believed to have a synthetic aperture radar and a daylight electro-optical system.

The map includes classified satellite images taken on Aug. 9, 2022 of the Lu'an (Liu'an) Airfield which is in western Anhui province and falls under the Eastern Theater Command. One closeup shows the edge of a WZ-8 exposed from under an aircraft shelter, while another enlarged photo shows a second WZ-8 being towed down the runway.

Marked in red is what the agency described as the "notional" flight path of the UAV to surveil Taiwan. First, the H-6M Badger Bomber carrying the WZ-8 takes off from Lu'an Airfield and heads toward the Taiwan Strait.

Once over the strait and to the northwest of Taiwan, the mother ship releases the drone, which fires its rocket. Once the UAV is underway, it turns south and flies over Yilan County.

It then flies over the heart of Taiwan, before turning west and exiting Taiwan's airspace near Tainan City. It then flies to the south of Penghu County and lands at one of three airbases in Fujian Province, namely Zhangzhou Airfield, Huian Airfield, or Fuzhou Yizu Airfield. The H-6M Badger then picks up the UAV at one of these airfields and transports it back to Lu'an Airfield, completing the round trip.

Also shown is a notional flight path of the bomber and drone from Lu'an Airfield to the Yellow Sea, where the UAV fires its rocket engine and darts over South Korea. It then lands at Dashuipo Airfield where the bomber will pick it up and transport it back to Lu'an Airfield.

Leaked map shows 'notional' route of Chinese supersonic drones over Taiwan
Top secret map from National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. (Washington Post screenshot)