Civilian satellite imagery appears to show China’s WZ-8 supersonic drone outside one of the two newly-constructed hangars at Lu-an Airbase, Defense News reported.
The image of Lu-An Airbase, provided by civilian Earth imaging company Planet Labs, reveals some of the recent upgrades that began sometime between the spring of 2018 and early 2019, including resurfacing the runway, widening taxiways, and constructing 20 bomber-sized shelters and the two hangers that replaced open parking bays.
According to Decker Eveleth, a Middlebury Institute of International Studies student who reviewed the satellite image for Defense News, the upgraded Lu-An Airbase also includes munitions checkout facilities to inspect munitions before they are loaded onto an aircraft.
Eveleth told Defense News that the tall buildings with hanger doors on both ends that have been constructed on the base are the type of hangers that are typically used to house ground-launched missiles and bombers.
Andreas Rupprecht, an author of several books on China’s military aviation told Defense News that the 10th Bomber Division of the 29th Air Regiment of the PLA’s Air Force flies the H-6K and H-6M bombers.
The WZ-8 supersonic drone is launched midair by the H-6M bomber.
The supersonic drone was also spotted on satellite imagery taken in December. A satellite photo taken in early April showed the widening of the 14-meter aircraft taxiways that lead to the underground aircraft facilities. By using the measuring tool from Google Earth, Defense News was able to estimate that the widened taxiways are now about 25 meters wide.
The presence of the WZ-8 supersonic drone was first revealed in a leaked document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The document was among the information illegally shared on the social media platform Discord by Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira. The leaked document included satellite imagery taken from a reconnaissance satellite in August of last year.