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HomeCHINA THREATENS TAIWANA potential China-Taiwan war and the Role of unmanned aircraft

A potential China-Taiwan war and the Role of unmanned aircraft

A US think tank asserts that drones will be crucial in defending Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack and proposes several steps for enhancing this capability.

In its report titled “Swarms over the Strait,” the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) outlines the significant role drones have played in recent conflicts, including the Ukrainian war.

The report cautions that the US faces a formidable challenge from China’s extensive deployment of unmanned systems, bolstered by its robust commercial drone industry, which surpasses Taiwan and the US.

“The United States is banking on out-innovating China and leveraging drones to thwart a potential People’s Liberation Army invasion of Taiwan,” according to the CNAS report.

“The US should heed lessons from Ukraine, where the country has consistently pioneered new drone tactics, while Russia rapidly adapted and scaled drone production beyond Ukraine’s capabilities.”

The report notes that large, expensive unmanned aerial vehicles in the US inventory are unlikely to survive in contested airspace. Moreover, the US operates relatively few high-value assets like the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9.

The considerable distance from US bases to the Taiwan Strait, alongside its proximity to Chinese bases, presents additional challenges.

The report recommends that the Pentagon acquire “adequate” long-range drones capable of operating in the Asia-Pacific region in sufficient numbers to withstand attrition.

“In addition to procuring ‘adequate’ long-range drones for target identification and strikes, the US should possess a smaller number of stealthy drones capable of conducting surveillance in heavily contested airspace and providing targeting data for standoff missile strikes,” the report states.

“More advanced drones will likely be necessary as part of a collaborative combat aircraft program.”

Among its many suggestions, CNAS proposes that the US invest in autonomous drones specifically designed to target ships in an invading fleet.

“Cost-effective kamikaze drones with relatively basic autonomy could overwhelm Chinese naval air defenses and inflict damage on or destroy the invasion fleet,” it suggests.

Ultimately, CNAS concludes that mass-producing an affordable range of drones is imperative to support what could be a prolonged conflict.

“Currently, China is poised to capitalize on its extensive drone fleet, potentially giving it an advantage in a Taiwan conflict,” CNAS warns.

“The US and Taiwan must urgently narrow this gap and develop a layered system of counter-drone defenses, or risk finding themselves on the losing side of a conflict.”

In recent remarks to the Washington Post, US Indo-Pacific Command’s commander, Samuel Paparo, emphasized the pivotal role of unmanned systems in thwarting any Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan.

“I aim to turn the Taiwan Strait into an unmanned nightmare using a variety of classified capabilities,” Paparo stated.

“I can make their lives exceedingly difficult for a month, which provides time for everything else.”


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