Taiwan building drone fleet to confront Beijing

Taipei claimed it faces “relentless and substantive threats” from the Chinese military

Taiwan is set to produce thousands of additional military and commercial-grade drones as part of a modernization project intended to counter any potential Chinese attack, according to an official white paper issued by the island. 

In its National Defense Report for 2023, the military outlined plans to vastly expand Taipei’s drone fleet, saying it had already designed five new “army-purpose UAVs” to “deal with hostile threats.” Citing alleged provocations by China, the paper said Taiwan would aim to build 700 military drones and another 7,000 conventional UAVs by 2028.

“With the rise of the PRC, the geopolitical landscape of the Western Pacific has formed a posture of great power competition,” the document said, adding that Taiwan is “at the forefront… of rival political systems” and must contend with “relentless and substantive threats of military invasion from the PRC.”

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The drone effort is part of a “Five-year Force Buildup Plan” embarked on by the Taiwanese government, which also entails additional foreign military purchases, domestic weapons development, joint training with allies and a recruitment drive. Officials on the island have grown louder in their warnings of a potential Chinese invasion in recent months, citing military activity by Beijing in the airspace and waters around Taiwan.

China has launched multiple rounds of wargames in the area following high-level meetings between US and Taiwanese officials over the last year, including a massive simulated blockade after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in 2022.

Beijing considers the island as part of its sovereign territory, and claims the right to retake the area by force if necessary. It has repeatedly slammed foreign arms deals with Taiwan – namely by the US – insisting other states should keep no direct relations with Taipei.

READ MORE: US sets new precedent with Taiwan arms transfer – media

The Taiwanese white paper went on to say that the island serves as a geographic “linchpin” for containing China, and hailed security cooperation with Washington for “assisting in boosting our defensive capabilities.” The document included a map of US bases in the Pacific, showing a long list of installations rimming the Chinese coast.

An earlier report issued by Taipei in July noted that the island’s drone force was “far outnumbered” by Beijing’s and called to close that gap. It said the military had just four types of UAVs and a fleet numbering in the “hundreds” – compared to more than 50 models operated by China, which is estimated to have tens of thousands of unmanned craft at its disposal.

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