Taiwan is developing a sophisticated autonomous attack drone that can linger over its target before striking it, as it looks to deter China from launching an invasion.
The aerial weapon will be capable of both manual and autonomous attacks, potentially giving it the ability to select and strike a target without human intervention.
Most drones currently require a handler to operate it using a physical or virtual control pad.
Chi Li-pin, director of Taiwan’s main weapons manufacturer at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, told the South China Morning Post that soldiers would be able to change or abort its mission mid-flight if needed.
“Type 2 is a high mobility munition that can be easily repositioned because its foldable wings allow for efficient transport,” he said.
The newspaper reported that the new drone has been tentatively named Loitering Missile II owing to its upgrade on the Loitering Unmanned Aircraft Type1.
The Type 1 was inspired by the US-made Switchblade 300, which Ukrainian forces have used to strike Russian troops.
Mr Chi said the larger Type 2 would be more capable than its smaller predecessor of striking larger targets such as key facilities.
“Also, multiple layers of tubes can be mounted at the launching platforms, allowing a number of the munitions to be ejected at the same time,” Mr Chi said, adding that the drones can be used in the day or night.
Taiwan is in the process of building up its stockpile of weapons amid deteriorating relations with China.
Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland. Xi Jinping, the president, has said this aim will be fulfilled, with force if necessary.
Partial air supremacy
Taiwan has said it would not cave to Chinese threats and moved to strengthen its position in case of future conflict, particularly with the use of drones as inspired by Ukraine.
“Since the war began, Ukraine, which was previously considered as lacking air supremacy, cleverly used drones to create its own partial air supremacy,” an Taiwanese internal briefing read in July.
At the time, Taiwan had four drone types and a fleet size of just hundreds, it has been reported.
China, by contrast, had 50 different drone types and a fleet size running into the tens of thousands.