US is 'not ready' for a drone war with China as Washington has been ‘preoccupied’ with ISIS terror threat, expert warns

THE US is “not ready” for a potential drone war with China as Washington has been “preoccupied” with the "War on Terror" for decades, an expert says.

Beijing is a “very sophisticated” drone power as it continues to "pour resources" into developing new technology, author and expert Seth Frantzman told The Sun.

Meanwhile, the US had a “lot of privilege” after defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War meaning no country could threaten its status as a global superpower.

Frantzman said the US spent decades tinkering with systems and investing billions of technology in drones such as Reapers, Predators, and Global Hawks.

He said: “There was no need for the US to invent. It happens when a country has a bit too much power or is privileged.”

While China invested in its military, officials in Washington were preoccupied with the War on Terror, according to the author.

Frantzman said: “A lot of people didn’t think that China was on the radar for a while.

“No one imagined 10 years ago that the US would face off against China. It wasn’t on the cards but the world moves quickly."

The Bush Administration thought Beijing was America’s “next major adversary” after a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 reconnaissance plane off China’s coast in April 2001.

The US jet made an emergency landing and Chinese officials detained the crew for 11 days as they inspected the plane.

But, the 9/11 terror attacks radically altered the political agenda as the administration's attention swiftly turned to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

China’s military spending has skyrocketed from around 41.2bn in 2000 to $245bn in 2020, according to the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.

Beijing has already plowed $1trillion into its military this year as President Xi aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, according to a Pentagon report published last year.

The country has been conducting tests using underwater explosives in recent months.

The “aggressive” bomb test appears to be part of a 20-year strategy to defeat the US Navy by destroying ports as Beijing is seemingly preparing for war.


Video from the state's mouthpiece The Global Times shows a large gush of water rising into the air during a simulated attack at an unnamed naval port.

Thousands of pieces of data were collected by sensors as computers analyzed how much of the port had been destroyed.

Captain Zhao Pengduo, Deputy Director of the Naval Port Demolition Test Program, told the outlet the weapons were designed for a surprise attack.

He said: “If we can use stealthy ways, like underwater explosions to destroy the ports, we can kill off the enemy's war potentials.”

Michael Beckley, author of Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower, told The Sun that the port test is just the “latest sign” that China is gearing up for war.

And, in August, Beijing allegedly tested a hypersonic nuclear missile that orbited the earth, catching officials in Washington "off-guard and scrambling".

Frantzman said that Beijing could use drones in a military setting – having already used unmanned technology as a "commercial tool" to entertain crowds at light shows.

Officials in Beijing are said to be investing heavily in drone swarm technology – where machines are networked using artificial intelligence.


This is where robots work together as they try to destroy identified targets.

Frantzman warned that this type of technology is “dangerous” as it could threaten to overwhelm air defenses.

Drones that are commonly used in swarm attacks do not have a long-range meaning it's unlikely they would reach potential targets such as Hawaii or the US mainland.

But, the author warned that the US and its allies have to be “more invested” in developing integrated defenses that can either jam or shoot down enemy drones.

Frantzman warned that there’s no country, apart from Israel, that’s "ahead of the game" in defending against drone warfare.

He said: “Israel has put a lot of investment into its Iron Dome system because the country faces a unique threat.

“I think the whole world is behind. Nobody knows what’s the magic formula to basically defend against everything from a drone that’s the size of a baseball to a drone that’s the size of a large aircraft.”

Frantzman warned that the US is in danger of losing the “drone wars” to emerging threats such as China, depending on how it wants to invest in unmanned technology.

He thinks that a drones arms race is underway due to the investment in unmanned technology.

And, fears are mounting that Moscow could use a fleet of 2,000 new generation “kamikaze drones” to strike against the West if US naval ships enter its waters.

A state media report said the unmanned aerial crafts will have the capability to “put frigates or destroyers out of commission by damaging their surveillance, control and weapons systems”.

Although the US' rivals are developing and testing drone technology, Frantzman says it remains to be seen if a “drone versus drone” combat occurs.

Seth J Frantzman is the co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and the author of the book Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future.

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