Reports surfaced Monday that the Chinese military has begun to field unmanned surveillance aircraft aboard its warship fleets, The Hill reports.
Foreign intelligence agencies have confirmed the existence of a Chinese-built maritime drone used on the People’s Liberation Naval ships, according to the online news agency United Press International.
Additional reports have come out of the country claiming that Beijing is constructing additional versions of unmanned intelligence aircraft.
The Hill reports that Chinese military leaders allegedly sought information from Iran about the RQ-170 Sentinal drone that was captured in December 2011.
The report notes that China has been accused of attempting to breach Defense Department networks in order to gain information on unmanned systems.
Northrop Grumman Corp. issued a report to Congress March 8 indicating that China was among the top threats to the U.S. critical infrastructure components.
Iran is additionally trying to build a fleet of drones based on the captured surveillance aircraft. However, the report cautions that it would likely take months or years before Iran is able to extract design elements in order to copy the weapon system .
It is suspected that China will use the drones in order to survey U.S. activity in the Asia-Pacific region, an area which President Barack Obama said would be the focus of future U.S. efforts in February.