Taiwan to deploy drone-to-drone defense systems on its islands


Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has revealed it will deploy a nationally developed drone defense system on its islands in hopes of better countering and deterring hostile drone incursions, especially from China. . Chinese drones have become a particularly pervasive threat to Taiwan’s airspace of late, as tensions between the two countries continue to mount.

In an article published by Focus Taiwan, an English-language Taiwanese media outlet owned by the government-run Central New Agency, Taiwan claims the unidentified system has already been developed locally. The system would be made up of an undisclosed number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed by Taiwan’s National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology. MND budget documents say the system is expected to be deployed at 45 air, naval and missile bases across the country over the next four years.

The MND went on to explain that defense areas on Taiwan’s outer islands will be given priority in deploying the system over the next few years. These are the areas in which Taiwan has experienced most of China’s “grey area” threats, which are defined as coercive state actions without war. The frequency of these threats really started to increase after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taipei this month despite warnings from China advising against it.

More recently, a mysterious Chinese drone daringly flew over the Lieyu Garrison Battalion on one of the Kinmen Islands, also known as Quemoy. The plane was filming at the time of the incursion, capturing footage that shows a pair of Taiwanese soldiers staring at the drone, at first confused, then quickly becoming defensive as they begin throwing rocks in its general direction to try to get it out. . The Kinmen Islands are ruled by Taiwan but are located just off China’s southeast coast, making the territory easy to reach even for low-end Chinese drones.

The undeterred incursion, and others like it, could set a dangerous precedent for potentially hostile armed drones to enter the airspace above Taiwan’s outlying military bases. The threat posed by drones is increasingly difficult for countries around the world, including the United States, to manage, but Taiwan’s recently announced counter-drone system echoes the country’s determination to do everything who is in its power to defend against the drones China sends its way. .

Even though Taiwan is particularly tight-lipped about the specific type of system it will begin deploying to its military bases starting this year, the information provided by the MND certainly helps clarify what it could eventually become. There are currently a handful of methods in Taiwan to deter and neutralize drones. These range from jam guns like Taiwan’s Sky Net system to anti-aircraft capabilities that might be beneficial for detecting a drone drone, but a “remote control drone defense system” that uses drones itself seems to be a relatively recent addition to Taiwan’s counter. – Lexicon of drones. However, similar concepts have existed in the counter drone space for years now.

Taiwan Air Force anti-drone gun during an anti-invasion drill on a highway in Chang-Hua. Credit: Patrick Adventurer/Getty Images

In 2019, Anduril Industries, a California-based tech startup, unveiled the Interceptor, a small “hard kill” attack drone that the company had begun shipping to the US and UK military. Interceptor takes the form of a quadcopter drone and uses onboard electro-optical and infrared sensors to track and engage its target – other drones. Interceptor also features a remote-controlled aspect, allowing the user to observe the movements of the drone and authorize the final attack via a video feed in its handheld controller, which could be similar to the system developed by Taiwan.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also working on an interceptor drone concept as part of the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program. A corresponding demonstration held in 2021 tested the new counter-drone system, which is designed to launch reusable interceptors that DARPA described as “strong, stringy streamers” to then attack enemy drone propulsion systems, making it impossible to fly.

A render of the Interceptor. Credit: Anduril Industries

However, the system was attached to the back of a Humvee during the demonstration, and DARPA itself said the concept was specifically aimed at protecting convoys from small drones. The system also does not use a remote control function, as Taiwan’s capability has been described as using and instead uses X-band radar coupled with an automated decision engine to detect and identify adversary UAVs and match these targets to specific interceptors in its inventory. without human intervention.

DARPA’s MFP program also used other non-kinetic techniques to counter drones, including high-powered microwave interceptors. Specifically, DARPA used a modified version of Lockheed Martin’s Mobile Radio Frequency Integrated Unmanned Aerial Systems Suppressor, or MORFIUS, which is a tube-launched interceptor designed for counter-UAV and counter-UAV swarm scenarios. drones.

The high-powered microwave aspect of the system is an ideal form of directed energy weaponry for employing electronic warfare tactics to disrupt or destroy electronics inside drones. The Epirus company designs a similar drone system called the Leonidas Pod, which uses high-powered microwaves to protect against incoming threats. These drone-mounted high-powered microwave systems can be used over and over again, allowing for rapid elimination of multiple targets.

Raytheon is also a player in the field of drone-vs-drone interceptors having recently fired its Block 2+ Coyote drones from a fixed palletized launch system based on 4×4 M-ATVs to then engage various UAVs. Although similar to the DARPA program, Raytheon’s concept uses fire control systems consisting of a KuRFS precision targeting radar and a Ku-720 mobile detection radar to direct Coyote drones to an incoming target by opposition to the remote control method that Taiwan disclosed. to the public.

Coyote unmanned aircraft system from Raytheon. 1 credit

It’s also possible that the very limited description we have of this system, especially its remote-controlled aspect, could mean something else. As a whole, the system operates quite autonomously and can be controlled remotely, not the drones themselves. We just have to wait and see.

Regardless of its concept of operations, China’s actions are obviously pushing Taiwan to prioritize defense against drones. That thinking is also echoed by the country’s proposed military budget of $19 billion for fiscal year 2023, which saw a double-digit jump from last year. The increase in spending specifically cites counter-drone systems, and the Department of National Defense has spoken out about how recent military exercises and numerous Chinese incursions have played a significant role in the increase in funding. requested.

The war zone has said for years that the best defense, in many cases, against low-end drones is drones, so it will be interesting to see what Taiwan’s drone-vs-drone system will look like and what its actual capabilities might be .

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