Taiwan has unveiled its newly built helicopter-like drone designed for battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance missions amid growing military threats from Beijing.
In a display on Tuesday, the government-funded Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology – the island’s top weapons builder – also introduced several other types of unmanned aerial vehicles, including a stealth UAV which is still under development.
The production of the new close-range tactical rotary-wing drone is aimed at boosting the military’s combat readiness through a real-time image transfer system and precision scouting, according to institute officials. It is tentatively dubbed Capricorn and has a flight time of up to 60 minutes and a remote-control distance of up to 30km (18.6 miles).
“The drone is produced for the newly established joint combat units of the army for near-sea and urban reconnaissance,” said Chi Li-pin, director of aerospace at the institute.
Taiwan showcases combat drones as self-ruled island aims to bolster defences
According to the military, the army budgeted NT$780 million (US$25 million) to buy 50 drone sets, including remote controls. Some 14 sets have already been delivered this year.
To allow the military to remotely control the drones, which could perform vertical take-off and landing without a runway, the institute had helped train more than 110 operators, Chi said.
The institute also displayed its Chien Hsiang (Rising Sword) anti-radiation drone which is designed for suicide attacks against the People’s Liberation Army in the event of a cross-strait conflict.
The loitering munition, first unveiled at a defence industry show in Taiwan in 2019, has an attack version to destroy enemy missiles and a decoy version to jam enemy radars.
“It has a striking range of more than 1,000km and can stay in the air for more than five hours, allowing it to effectively attack enemy forces and jam various types of radars along the coast and inland of China,” Chi said, adding that mass production of the drones was under way.
According to the air force, the institute is expected to produce 104 Rising Sword munitions for delivery by 2025.
The demonstration event introduced plans for a previously undisclosed type of drone which the institute said would have a stealth function. Institute officials did not reveal when the prototype of the turbine-engine UAV would be completed.
Drone development is part of the island’s efforts to build up its asymmetric warfare resources to deal with the much bigger and more powerful PLA forces.
Beijing considers Taiwan its territory that must be brought back under control, by force if necessary. Most countries, including the United States, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.
Lawrence Chung is a Taipei-based correspondent for SCMP.