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A Chinese military drone was spotted flying close to the Philippines ahead of the delivery of BrahMo from India

Manila, Philippines): A WZ-7 Soaring Dragon drone of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was spotted near the Philippines, ahead of the Southeast Asian country’s preparations to receive the delivery of India’s BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, The Eurasian Times reported.

According to the report, the distinctive shape of the WZ-7 drone caught the attention of Raffy Tima, a correspondent for Philippine news organization GMA News, as it passed through the skies over the West Philippine Sea, an area in the South China Sea . Sea northwest of the Philippines.

The timing of this observation is significant amid escalating tensions between China and the Philippines over territorial disputes, particularly the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, in the South China Sea, the report said. The acquisition of the BrahMos missiles from India is seen as a strategic move by the Philippines to boost its defensive capabilities to counter China’s assertiveness in the region.

The BrahMos missile system, acquired as part of the ‘Horizon 2’ Priority Projects aimed at modernizing the Philippine Armed Forces, arrived in Manila on April 19.

The delivery, facilitated by a government-to-government (G2G) agreement, includes three missile batteries, operator and maintainer training, and an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package. Each missile battery typically consists of three mobile autonomous launchers with two or three missile tubes each, accompanied by the required tracking systems, The Eurasian Times reported.

The sighting of the WZ-7 drone coinciding with the arrival of Indian transport aircraft carrying the BrahMos missiles could be interpreted as an intriguing coincidence. Notably, this event precedes the start of the ‘Balikatan 2024’ exercises between the Philippines and the US.

The jet-powered WZ-7, flown by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has a service ceiling of over 18,000 meters and a range of approximately 7,000 kilometers. Although publicly available estimates indicate a minimum duration of 10 hours, actual flight times could be much longer, according to the report by The EurAsian Times.

In 2022, the same drone was spotted near the Taiwan Strait, amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan. The same report further claimed that the WZ-7 was detected in the seas by Taiwan, indicating the presence of PLA forces near Taiwan.

During these expected exercises, military forces are poised to engage in activities such as sinking target ships, reclaiming islands and naval operations in the waters adjacent to the South China Sea. Of particular interest to China is the US deployment of the new Typhon ground-based missile system on the northern Philippine island of Luzon, The Eurasian Times reported.

As tensions persist in the West Philippine Sea, marked by competing territorial claims and military maneuvers, the convergence of these events underlines the delicate geopolitical dynamics shaping the region.