Taiwan has announced plans to bolster its drone fleet as part of a modernization project aimed at countering potential threats from China. The country’s military recently released its National Defense Report for 2023, which outlines its intentions to significantly expand its drone capabilities. The report states that Taiwan has already designed five new “army-purpose UAVs” to address hostile threats, and it plans to build 700 military drones and 7,000 conventional UAVs by 2028. This increased drone production is part of Taiwan’s Five-year Force Buildup Plan, which also includes foreign military purchases, domestic weapons development, joint training with allies, and a recruitment drive.
The white paper emphasizes Taiwan’s concerns about the geopolitical landscape of the Western Pacific, stating that it is facing “relentless and substantive threats of military invasion” from China. It highlights the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the rival political systems in the region. With China considering Taiwan as its sovereign territory, the report asserts that Taiwan must be prepared to defend itself.
The military’s decision to invest in drones comes amidst increased military activities by China in the airspace and waters surrounding Taiwan. Beijing has conducted multiple rounds of wargames in the area, particularly following high-level meetings between US and Taiwanese officials. China views Taiwan as a crucial part of its territory and has repeatedly expressed its opposition to foreign arms deals with the island, particularly those involving the US.
Taiwan’s white paper also acknowledges its reliance on security cooperation with the United States. It describes the island as a geographic “linchpin” for containing China and appreciates US assistance in boosting its defensive capabilities. The paper even includes a map showing US military bases in the Pacific, indicating the close partnership between Taiwan and the US.
The report also highlights the disparity in drone capabilities between Taiwan and China. It notes that Taiwan’s drone force is “far outnumbered” by Beijing’s, with the Taiwanese military operating only four types of UAVs and a fleet numbering in the hundreds. In contrast, China is estimated to have over 50 models and tens of thousands of unmanned craft at its disposal. Taiwan sees the need to close this gap to better defend itself against potential threats.
Overall, Taiwan’s decision to expand its drone fleet is a response to the perceived threats from China. The country’s military is focused on modernizing its capabilities to effectively defend itself in the face of potential military aggression. With continued concerns about China’s intentions, Taiwan is determined to enhance its defense capabilities through increased drone production and closer security cooperation with the United States.