Taiwan plans military drone fleet to protect coast

2019 budget allocates additional funds for Taiwan-made reconnaissance and armed drones

Taiwan-made drone. (Screenshot from National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology video)

Taiwan-made drone. (Screenshot from National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology video)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan's coastline will be patrolled by unmanned reconnaissance and armed drones in the future, according to funding allocated in Taiwan's 2019 draft budget.

The drones will be developed as a priority, and will be used to deter enemy attack, according to Asia Times of Hong Kong.

Due to changes in the international and regional environment, Taiwan will be increasing its national defense budget for 2019 by NT$18.3 billion (US$592 million), totaling 2.16 percent of GDP. Next year's budget includes significant increases to domestic research and development in indigenous weapons, including the hotly touted Taiwan-made submarines.

The majority of the new drone fleet will be made up of Taiwanese-made drones including the "Tengyun drone" (騰雲無人機) developed by National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, and the anti-radiation missile drone developed through the "Jiangxiang" (劍翔) project.

Video courtesy of National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology

The "Tengyun drone" is compatible with U.S. AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which have a range of 0.5-8 kilometers, and has a remarkably similar design to the U.S. "MQ-1 Predator" drone, according to Asia Times.  The "Jiangxiang" drone will be able to destroy radar systems, reports suggest. 

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said the drone plans are part of a strategy to destroy a potential amphibious assault of Taiwan.

The plan for a larger fleet of drones may be part of Taiwan's effort to strengthen its asymmetric warfare capability, in the context of an increasingly powerful Chinese military.

The budget plan proposed by the Executive Yuan for 2019 is in the process of being forwarded to the Legislative Yuan for review and approval.