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Taiwan ups spending on ‘suicide drones’ over fears of China invasion

Taiwan ups spending on unmanned 'suicide drones'

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Taiwan has displayed its state-of-the-art kamikaze drones as part of its latest defence preparations days after China showcased its aerial firepower at the Zhuhai Airshow. Following in the lead of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, which has found success against Russia with inexpensive Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles from Turkey, which carry lightweight, laser-guided bombs, Taiwan has invested in three drones to help stave off a Chinese invasion. In footage shown by Sky News Australia, the Chien Hsiang drones can be seen being propelled from a stationary vehicle, with a leading Taiwanese military scientist Chi Li-ping telling journalists he believes unmanned aerial combat vehicles are a “future trend”. 

Showing footage of a drone being launched into Taiwanese airspace, reporter Brent O’Halloran said: “If war comes to the shores, this may turn the tide. Less than two metres long, rocket and propeller-powered, and designed to observe and destroy.” 

Chi Li-ping, who runs the Aeronautical Systems Research Division of the National Chung Shan Institute (NCSIST), the state-affiliated weapons provider, said: “We think that unmanned aerial combat vehicles are a future trend. This is why we are doing research about them and laying out some strategies.” 

Mr O’Halloran added: “Drones are central to Taiwan’s defence strategy. Fired from trucks, these Chien Hsiang drones can be deployed closer to the front line, while these helicopter-designed drones can scope the sky for a longer period. Taiwan has just ordered 100 of them.”

Chi said: “The images taken can be swiftly linked to the system so that they can be shared with all the combat units.” 

Dozens of the single-use Chien Hsiang suicide drones, officially termed loitering munitions, can be carried on a truck at any one time. They are guided by a propeller engine before crashing into their target. 

While Ukraine has been using the Bayraktar TB2 vehicles in combat, Russia has been using its Lancet drones, as well as the Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones, to destroy cities deep behind front lines, damaging critical energy infrastructure and killing civilians. 

According to Taiwan, their indigenous anti-radiation loitering munitions will be used to destroy enemy radars stationed at sea, along the coast, or inland. Chi also added that these loitering munitions could destroy other UAVs.

A Taiwanese legislative report from April this year also revealed that a second variant of the drone, a decoy version, would be deployed to jam enemy radars. 

The NCSIST also showcased the Teng Yun, which resembles the American MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle and can stay aloft for up to 24 hours.

It is a reconnaissance drone set to undergo a combat readiness assessment next year having completed a 10-hour test flight during the summer. 

A third, helicopter-like drone, known as Capricorn, has additionally been showcased by Taiwan. It can fly up to 60 minutes and be controlled from more than 18 miles away. 

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The institute had assisted in training more than 110 operators to enable the military to remotely operate the drones, which could do vertical take-off and landing without a runway, Chi said.

Earlier this month, the self-ruled island state disclosed that it was investing $1.6 billion (£1.35 billion) to develop a domestic supply chain of armed drones as part of its attempts to prepare for a Chinese invasion. 

Over the past few months, China has upped its military threat against Taiwan in response to a visit from US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 

It shot missiles over the island and held live-fire military drills in six self-declared zones in what appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential blockade and invasion of the island. 

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