Uncrewed vehicles a key node of Taiwan’s new littoral defence network


For many years, Taiwan’s plans for defence against an attack by forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were predicated by the presumption that such an attack could be deflected by well-equipped Taiwanese air and sea forces.

However, strategists from Taiwan’s main ally, the United States, have advised that, bearing in mind the vast and increasing numerical superiority of PRC forces, Taiwan should focus on enabling swarm-type counter-attacks within the littoral. To help achieve this end, Taiwan is planning to acquire an armada of uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) and uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) equipped for attack, surveillance, and intelligence missions.

In the vanguard of this potent future force will be a new type of large USV, the first two of which are currently in build by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST). These craft, intended to operate within 30 kilometres of Taiwan’s coastline, will feature radar and electro-optical surveillance and electronic warfare equipment, and can be fitted with missiles.

They will also be capable of exercising remote command and control of other USVs as well as carrying out a training role. The task will entail simulating electronic, thermal, and infra-red emissions for Republic of China Navy (RoCN) warships to lock on to during exercises.

These new USVs will be part of a tapestry of littoral defence platforms that will include the RoCN’s new, indigenously-built diesel-electric attack submarines, Thunder Tiger Seawolf autonomous UUVs, and Thunder Tiger Sea Shark high-performance autonomous USVs as well as Harpoon anti-shipping cruise missiles that are to be installed at six new launch sites along the Taiwanese coast.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police. He is Baird Maritime's resident maritime security expert and columnist.