Up to ten EA-03 Soaring Dragon High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been deployed to Yishuntun airbase near Shuangliao in northeastern China, satellite imagery confirms. That’s four more EA-03 airframes observed since January 2019. The Soaring Dragon are easily identified by their ‘joined-wing’ design and ‘V’ shaped vertical stabilizers.
The presence of additional UAVs and ongoing construction activity continue to suggest that Yishuntun will become a permanent basing location. Construction of additional hangars and support areas is still underway on the western side of the runway where previous renovations occurred.
In early May 2019, we observed exercises probably taking place at the airbase. Up to eight trainer aircraft had deployed between 11 and 14 May. The trainer were active at the location until 01 June, when one IL-76 Candid medium transport arrived.
At least three IL-76 had touched down in early June possibly to transport the EA-03 and/or personnel for further deployment. One EA-03 may have relocated to Dingxin, where Maxar imagery captured the joined-wing aircraft parked on the apron on 02 June. A local ground control station and satcom link were operationally deployed. (Other training locations could include Wuwei airbase).
From 15 June to 14 July a single EA-03 was visible at Yishuntun suggesting that up to five of the Soaring Dragon had departed. When the five returned, two additional UAV were identified bringing total observed UAV to eight. By August, another rotation of trainer cycled through the airbase and in September EA-03 numbers climbed to ten.
According to Jane’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets, the EA-03 has a cruising speed around 405 kt (750 km/h), an operating altitude of 18,000 m, and a range of 3,780 n miles (7,000 km). Yishuntun is approximately 200 miles (about 320 km) from the DPRK border.
China continues to increase the ISR requirement on the border with the DPRK.