Taiwan displayed both surveillance and combat drones on Tuesday sending a clear message that it has what is needed to stand against much greater forces of rapacious China, should an all-out conflict unfold.
Taiwan may be David in comparison to Goliath China but as the case of Ukraine’s defense against much mightier Russia has shown, drones are pivotal elements of “asymmetric warfare” that Taipei is compelled to wage should Beijing decide to annex the island it claims its own territory.
Ever since August last year, China has been ramping up military activity near the democratically governed island to force it into acceptance of Chinese sovereignty despite Taiwan’s disinclination.
Displays of Taiwanese drone capabilities are a rarity but the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) decided to shed some light on its latest models, including the Albatross II surveillance drone, and combat drones that operate with global positioning system satellites.
The war in Ukraine had given drones much publicity, NCSIST head Art Chang said, adding that his institution had teamed up with Taiwan companies to build a “national team” to develop military drones.
The goal of Taiwan’s military and companies is to produce 3,000 drones next year.
Chi Li-Pin, director of the Aeronautical Systems Research Division for NCSIST, advocated for increased adoption of drones in the strategies of Taiwan’s armed forces.
“I hope our national troops can familiarise themselves with this weapon of asymmetric warfare and use them boldly,” he told reporters at an NCSIST facility in the central city of Taichung.
President Tsai Ing-wen has championed the idea of “asymmetric warfare” to make Taiwan’s forces more agile and difficult to hit. Although Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped, they fall short of China’s juggernaut army.
On display, among other unmanned aerial vehicles, was an attack drone with loitering munitions. The drone is capable of cruising towards a target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact.
China has sent its drones to areas close to Taiwan to test its responses, the island’s defense ministry has said.
Incursions by civilian Chinese drones also have taken place. Last year, Taiwan took down one such drone that violated the island’s airspace over an islet off the Chinese coast.
China was quickly building up its combat capacity with drones, including swarms of flying robots, Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a report, adding that in response, Taiwan will concentrate on developing its combat and surveillance drones.