Taiwan boosts defence with indigenous combat drones and global collaborations

As Taiwan focuses on developing its drone capabilities, it is also addressing the need for counter-drone technology to offset China’s numerical advantage. Local companies are actively engaged in the development of measures to detect and counter potential drone threats.

Taiwan is not only focusing on domestic production but is also collaborating with foreign partners to strengthen its drone capabilities. At the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), Taiwan agreed with the United Kingdom-based Flyby Technology to import 160 “Jackal” combat drones manufactured by Flyby’s Turkish partner, FlyBVLOS Technology.

According to Hambling, the Jackal combat drone provides Taiwan with valuable tactical capability, offering a low-cost, attritable drone with significant strike capabilities. Armed with Lightweight Multirole Missiles (LMM) or similar projectiles, Jackals could effectively target a range of battlefield threats. Moreover, these drones could disrupt Chinese air defence systems, creating opportunities for coordinated attacks by both crewed and uncrewed aircraft.

The vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability of the Jackal is highlighted as a key advantage. This feature allows the drone to operate without the need for a traditional airbase, providing greater protection against the initial wave of attacks that might occur during an invasion of the island. The development of the Jackal began in early 2022, and its specifications include a top speed of 160 kilometres per hour and the ability to fly at altitudes up to 4,000 meters, as reported by FlyBVLOS Technology.

Thunder Tiger Group, renowned for its production of radio-controlled model aircraft for both recreational and commercial purposes, is among the companies actively recruited by the Taiwanese government to contribute to the nation’s drone initiative. These recruited companies, including Thunder Tiger Group, bring a diverse range of expertise, spanning from aviation to telecommunications and the manufacturing of electronic components for applications like GPS positioning.

Notably, Thunder Tiger is working on the creation of pilotless surveillance helicopters intended for both ship- and land-based operations. These innovative helicopters feature four-meter-long rotors and boast an impressive range of 400 kilometres. Additionally, they can remain airborne for up to six hours, making them well-suited for extended surveillance missions.

As Taiwan focuses on developing its drone capabilities, it is also addressing the need for counter-drone technology to offset China’s numerical advantage. Local companies are actively engaged in the development of measures to detect and counter potential drone threats.

One such company, Tron Future, is working on anti-drone devices, specifically jammers designed to disable incoming drones. Wang Yu-jiu, the Chairman and CEO of Tron Future, highlights the importance of being able to identify and assign missions to potential threats, especially in scenarios where the enemy deploys a large number of drones simultaneously.

The development of counter-drone technology is a crucial component of Taiwan’s overall defence strategy. In the event of a conflict, the ability to detect, identify, and neutralize hostile drones becomes paramount. This approach aligns with the broader strategy of adopting asymmetrical tactics to counter China’s advantage in sheer numbers, as discussed in previous reports.

By investing in technologies like anti-drone devices and jammers, Taiwan aims to enhance its overall defence capabilities and ensure that it can effectively respond to evolving threats in the drone warfare landscape.

PORCUPINE STRATEGY

This approach aims to enhance self-reliance in the face of potential conflict with Beijing. The concept revolves around the idea of adopting an asymmetrical strategy, as proposed by both Washington and senior Taiwanese military thinkers.

According to this asymmetrical strategy, Taiwan should prioritize the development and deployment of numerous smaller, mobile, and lethal weapons systems. This approach is seen as a deterrent against potential aggression from China. The emphasis is on quantity, agility, and adaptability, rather than investing in a smaller number of high-profile, vulnerable assets. This concept aligns with the idea of turning Taiwan into a “porcupine” – a well-defended entity with a multitude of smaller, harder-to-target defence mechanisms.

President Tsai Ing-wen has endorsed and supported this drone plan, suggesting a strategic alignment with advice from both international partners, particularly Washington, and local military experts. By focusing on the mass production of diverse military drones, Taiwan aims not only to enhance its security but also to position itself as a key player in the global drone technology market, boosting its economic prospects.

INDIGENOUS WEAPONS

The Taiwan Institute of Economic Research has unveiled a range of new surveillance and combat drones, showcasing the nation’s defence system. Among the highlighted drones are:

Albatross II UAV:

  • Capable of extended surveillance and tracking of naval ships at sea using artificial intelligence.
  • Boasts a continuous flight time of 16 hours.
  • Has a maximum range of over 300 kilometers (186 miles).

Cardinal III UAV:

  • A portable drone designed for vertical takeoff and landing.
  • Specifically intended for monitoring activities along coastlines.

Loitering Munition UAV:

  • Positioned as a key combat drone.
  • Operable by a single soldier.
  • Equipped with a warhead, capable of targeting individuals or vehicles from the sky.
  • Modelled after the U.S.-made Switchblade 300 drones, known for their effectiveness in targeting enemy radar systems.

Several indigenous military drones already in use by the Taiwanese military were also on display, including a Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV. This drone is capable of long-distance surveillance, providing advanced air and sea warnings.

The unveiling of these new drones underscores Taiwan’s proactive approach to developing and deploying advanced unmanned aerial systems for both surveillance and combat purposes. These technologies aim to enhance the nation’s defence capabilities and readiness in the face of evolving security challenges.