Pictured above—a Chinese CH-5 reconnaissance drone.
British defense officials claim China has flown at least 18 spy-drone sorties around military sites and power-infrastructure facilitates between 2019 and 2021, U.K. publication The Mirror has reported.
“China is intent on stealing British secrets," said an unnamed intelligence source. “There is a network of Chinese spies in the U.K., and they will use any means necessary to steal classified information. We know they have been targeting very sensitive establishments such as military bases and nuclear-power stations by using drones.”
The new allegations come after a January 2022 warning from Britain's spy agency MI5 that a Chinese agent had infiltrated the British Parliament to steal state secrets.
The nuclear substation in Faslane, Scotland—the most sensitive military institution in England—is one of the locations suspected of being spied on. Trident submarines are stationed at the base, and nuclear weapons are stored at Faslane's Royal Naval Armament Depot. Other locations were the U.K. currently stores nuclear weapons are WE Aldermaston, the AWE Burghfield, and the Royal Naval Armament Depot Coulport.
Drone sightings were also reported at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire—a facility that designs and manufactures nuclear bombs.
China’s drone industry has produced several surveillance and combat drones the past few years, such as the WJ-700, WJ-600, WJ-500, and Soar Dragon. U.K. authorities declined to specify which Chinese drones may have been deployed to gather intelligence data at British facilities, but it's known that the Soar Dragon was used to spy on a U.S. Navy cruiser traveling through the Taiwan Strait in July 2019.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, the United Kingdom has 225 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.