Photo of Armenian drone wreckage shared in posts about Chinese drone 'shot down' by Taiwan

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on September 7, 2022 at 10:53
  • 3 min read
  • By Jeff LI, AFP Hong Kong
A photo has been shared repeatedly on social media along with a claim that it shows the wreckage of a Chinese drone shot down by Taiwanese soldiers. But while Taiwan's defence ministry said it shot down a Chinese drone that entered the island's airspace in late August, the photo was shared in a false context. According to the Azerbaijani defence ministry, it actually shows the wreckage of an Armenian drone shot down by Azerbaijan in 2020.

"A Chinese drone, recently shot down by soldiers posted to the Shihyu Islet in the Kinmen Islands," reads the Facebook post's traditional Chinese caption alongside the photo of aircraft fragments on a grassy field. "Locals released what appeared to be a picture of the wreckage."

The post -- shared more than one hundred times after it was published on September 3 -- ends with a hashtag sarcastically saying people may want to travel to the "crash site" for souvenir photos.

A phrase in broken English reads "Maded In Chinas" on one broken wing, which some users joked was reflective of poor English proficiency in China.

While some Facebook users questioned the authenticity of the claim, others said the photo showed the Chinese military's "poor fighting capability".

"It probably was not shot down," one user said sarcastically. "But rather just exploded mid-flight."

The same photo was also shared alongside a similar claim here and here on Twitter; and reshared here on Facebook with more than 2,000 "likes".

A screengrab of the post with the misleading claim

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait soared to their highest level in decades after China staged large-scale military exercises in August around Taiwan shortly after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei, AFP reported.

The misleading posts circulated online after Taiwan said Chinese drones repeatedly intruded into the airspace of the Kinmen Islands after Pelosi's visit.

The island's defence ministry said on August 31 that its troops shot down an unidentified commercial drone that arrived from China after firing warning shots.

But the photo in the misleading posts does not show a Chinese drone.

Armenian drone

A reverse image search found the original picture published in an Azerbaijani defence ministry statement on July 16, 2020.

It identified the wreckage as an Armenian X-55 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that the Azerbaijani military shot down.

UAVs are much larger than any regular commercial drone.

The statement reads in part: "Due to the vigilance of our units, the enemy's UAV was immediately detected and destroyed."

The image published by the Azerbaijani defence ministry corresponds with the photo in the misleading posts, but the words "Maded in Chinas" cannot be seen on the damaged wing.

Below is a comparison of the picture in the misleading posts (left) and the picture published by Azerbaijan's defence ministry (right):

Comparison of the picture in the misleading posts (left) and the picture published by Azerbaijan's defence ministry (right).

Turkey's Anadolu Agency reported the UAV was shot down during a series of skirmishes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in July 2020.

It quoted officials saying Azerbaijani troops shot down the aircraft when it was conducting a reconnaissance mission over Azerbaijani positions.

While the Chinese military operates an array of UAVs, it has not made any recorded purchase of the Armenian X-55 UAV.

"From my understanding, I don't think there has been any X-55 sale to China," Collin Koh, a research fellow from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, told AFP.

He went on to say the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's Arms Transfers Database also does not record any sales of X-55 UAVs to China.

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