The Pentagon's annual report on the People's Liberation Army (PLA), released Friday, reveals that China's military plans to produce over 42,000 land and sea based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup.
China is currently operating a number of armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks.
Its plans closely mirror those of the United States, although with less ties to manned combat systems which are difficult for its developing aerospace firms to produce.
"The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China's ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations," the report stated.
The report estimates the total cost of the Chinese systems will be worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023 - much less expensive than traditional manned systems, although at this point still somewhat limited as well.
China's Four UAV programs include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones able to fire precision weapons.
"The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China's first stealthy flying wing UAV," the report stated.