China stealth drone
Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles are presented during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing Reuters file photo

China's state-owned defence contractor is developing stealth and near-space drones. China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (Casic), the country's largest missile maker, and believed to be the only manufacturer of cruise missiles in China, has said the process has already begun to develop drones which are capable of evading anti-aircraft weapons and sophisticated radar systems.

"As military reforms are drastically changing armed forces around the world, drones have become an indispensable weapon in modern warfare because they can play an important role in high-resolution reconnaissance, long-distance precision strikes, anti-submarine operations and aerial combat," Casic's deputy general manager Wei Yiyin, who is also a member of a high-profile Chinese national committee, told the China Daily.

China has been engaged in ambitiously modernising its military and coming up with new weapons systems in order to assert itself in an increasingly fragile global order. Still, Beijing has been emphasising that none of these steps are for offensive purposes but are purely defensive in nature.

Beijing's increased military spending has become a major cause of concern for its adversaries both in the region and outside as they worry China's growing territorial assertions could only make the situation worse.

Wei added that the long-endurance stealth-technology drones would be developed as part of Casic's 13th five-year plan that started in 2016. He added that the high-tech defence manufacturer also has "plans to make multipurpose, stealth target aircraft used for training".