The Taiwanese military has decided to shoot down Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles that don’t respond to its warnings. The decision comes after repeated incursions by Chinese drones into Taiwanese airspace.
In the latest development, the Taiwanese military fired on a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drone for the first time after it had approached the Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen Islands, the island’s defense ministry said on Tuesday.
“At around 5:59 pm, a drone entered the restricted air space over Erdan Island once again. The defense forces issued warnings in accordance with protocol. Because the drone continued to hover over the area, the defense forces opened fire and forced it to leave. The drone flew towards Xiamen at around 6 p.m.,” the ministry said.
On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, images and videos have recently surfaced showing Chinese (UAVs) flagrantly violating Taiwanese airspace and filming close-ups of Taiwanese soldiers. Some of the soldiers can be seen hurling rocks at the drone.
In the most recent incident, a Chinese drone recorded a video of Taiwanese soldiers posted at a lookout position in the Lieyu Township of Kinmen County.
On August 28, the island nation said that the Army will take the necessary actions to “drive away” drones in the future by blowing whistles, issuing radio warnings, and firing signal flares, but if the UAV refuses to depart, it will be “shot down.”
Taiwan has recently also announced plans to deploy a new anti-drone system at military bases by 2023. The latest decision from the ministry of defense may not use a gun, a missile, or even a net-based system to capture the Chinese drone; numerous additional non-kinetic ways might similarly render a UAV inoperable and destroy it.
Notably, Chinese drone intrusions have been observed over the Matsu Islands and Kinmen, also known as Quemoy Islands. Such incursions are very difficult to defend because they are just about six miles from the coast of mainland China.
On August 16, a drone emerged over the Lieyu Garrison Battalion on one of the Kinmen Islands, making it evident that the Islands are dealing with a Chinese drone “problem.”
"Chinese drones flying over China’s territory — what’s there to be surprised at?" Chinese FM spokesperson Zhao Lijian on private drones flying from Chinese mainland to the Jinmen island. https://t.co/7ReF007HN9 pic.twitter.com/Ofe9U7bnr1
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 30, 2022
The footage from that incident was widely shared on a Chinese social media website, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense later confirmed that the footage recorded from the drone was authentic. The drone had been widely identified as belonging to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or Chinese citizens.
In the last month, the Kinmen Defense Command has documented 23 intrusions by Chinese drones over Kinmen County.
Experts have also voiced alarm over these occurrences. Lo Cheng-fang, chief executive officer of GEOSAT Aerospace & Technology Inc., told CNA that the Army should not be afraid to use counter-drone weaponry when they detect them in territorial airspace.
According to him, the worst thing Taiwan can do is nothing because that will only encourage China’s provocative “gray zone” operations, which are characterized as coercive actions conducted by actors who appear to be neither states nor militaries.
Former Navy lieutenant commander Lu Li-shih recommended that the Army could attempt to establish a geofence, or virtual border, around a no-fly zone between the offshore counties and China to prevent drones from entering.
What Anti-Drone Technology Could Taiwan Employ?
These drone incursions could be seen as a significant security challenge for Taiwan since their missions might entail different monitoring forms, including testing the Republic of China’s defense forces to react quickly and effectively.
Repeated intrusions might also be used as a propaganda tactic at a minimal cost, sapping Taiwanese resources and demonstrating their susceptibility to a Chinese invasion. This would appear to undermine Taiwanese defense efforts on the islands.
It’s significant to observe that in the wake of recent events, the ministry also announced that steps were being made to give more camouflage to military facilities that drones might monitor. Additionally, it stated that “countermeasures” were being taken to stop drone reconnaissance.
Taiwan is known to operate several anti-aircraft weapons that may shoot down drones and portable anti-drone jammers like the Sky Net system. However, there isn’t much proof that these were used in recent occurrences.
According to earlier reports, Taiwan is also planning to purchase land-based Phalanx defense systems from the United States to protect air bases. These systems would serve as point deterrents against land-attack cruise missiles, anti-radiation missiles, and small drones.
The island nation could also potentially think about acquiring several other systems with the assistance of the US. For instance, under the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also developing a design for an interceptor drone. The system targets enemy drone propulsion systems, rendering them unflyable.
Another system, Anvil, is a small “hard kill” assault drone unveiled in 2019 by California-based tech startup Anduril Industries. The company had already started supplying the US and UK forces with the Anvil.
Anvil adopts the form of a quadcopter drone and engages its target, other drones, using inbuilt electro-optical and infrared sensors.
The system contains a remote-controlled component comparable to the system Taiwan has created, allowing the user to watch the drone’s movements and approve the final attack through a video stream in its hand-held controller.
In May 2022, the Ministry of National Defense also announced that the upcoming drone defense systems will be installed at 45 facilities throughout Taiwan by 2026. The systems were designed by Taiwan’s National Chung Shan Institute of Science & Technology (NCSIST).
This step was taken to address a broader range of threats in addition to the outlying islands. It is anticipated that the investment will cost $141 million. Taiwan will reportedly purchase “232 jammer guns” and “five sets of drone defense systems.”
Meanwhile, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense recently posted a picture of soldiers with a quadcopter drone superimposed and promised to take “appropriate countermeasures immediately” in response. A flare gun, as seen in recent drone encounters, looks to be in the hands of the nearest soldier.
However, Taiwan requires these anti-drone capabilities to halt China’s belligerent actions and avoid exposing its military bases to the PLA.