China has sent a military drone on what is thought to be the first mission of its kind in a significant show of the country’s determination to match America and Japan in the technology of warfare.
Japanese F-15 jet fighters scrambled from a base in Okinawa last Monday to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle, which turned back towards the Chinese coast.
Although the drone flew in international airspace, officials in Tokyo said it had entered Japan’s air defence identification zone. Last year Japan scrambled its fighters more than 300 times to intercept Chinese military aircraft.
The Japanese defence ministry later released aerial pictures of the craft as it circled about 100 miles north of the disputed Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu in China.
Aviation specialists identified it as a medium-range drone codenamed BZK-005, capable of flying for 40 hours at 26,000 ft.
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