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Taiwan wants to arm tactical UAV

Government-controlled CSIST unveils Chung Shyang II mock-up and hopes to develop strike version for military

Taiwan’s Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) has unveiled a new tactical unmanned air vehicle and hopes to develop a strike version of the system for the nation’s military. CSIST unveiled a mock-up of its new UAV – dubbed the Chung Shyang II – at the Taipei Aerospace and Defence Technology Exhibition this month.

The Taiwanese army and navy have already test flown the tactical UAV design and CSIST says it is talking with private manufacturing companies in Taiwan to produce the system. CSIST declines to provide performance specifications for the Chung Shyang II, which has flown several sorties since 2004, or to discuss its planned combat derivative. However, industry sources say it is trying to design a strike variant with an 800kg (1,760lb) payload, potentially to include an early-warning radar, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and a new indigenous cruise missile.

Sources say Taiwan’s defence ministry seeks to acquire three battalions of combat UAVs within the next five years and must give government-controlled CSIST an opportunity to sell its aircraft before considering any others. However, the army is believed to have shown little interest in domestic UAVs and is more interested in importing more capable systems. But sources say the US government is unlikely to approve the sale of any of its armed UAVs to Taipei and add that European manufacturers are not interested in Taiwanese sales because of the anticipated opening of the mainland Chinese market.

Taiwan has not formally requested UAV purchases, but the US government responded coldly to a recent request from South Korea for Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk (Flight International, 19-25 July).

CSIST began a three-year research project in 2002, resulting in the Chung Shyang I and the upgraded Chung Shyang II, and is testing several prototypes. It says the tactical UAV design can perform surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery spotting and battle damage assessment missions for the military and duties including border/coastal patrol, atmospheric monitoring and aerial photography for government agencies. 

BRENDAN SOBIE / TAIPEI

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