According to Taiwan media reports, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are playing a vital role in the Russian–Ukrainian war. The integrated function of detection and attack allowed the Ukrainian army to reverse its military disadvantage successfully. 

UAVs will change the type of combat in the Taiwan Strait

Taiwan purchased the MQ-9B (Sea Guard) drone from the United States in 2021, and the expected delivery time will be in 2025. The country is also reinforcing its R&D and mass production capacity. 

Among the cases, with the recent breakthrough in the engine, the “Tengyun II” drone developed by Tiawans Zhongshan Sciences Academy is conducting a long-term flight test. It will further be developed in the direction of mounting ammunition weapons. 

Yao Cheng, a former lieutenant colonel of the Chinese Navy Command, told The Epoch Times on June 10 that the Russian–Ukrainian war shows that the role of drones on the battlefield is growing. Furthermore, drones and unmanned operations will be the future trend. 

According to Yao, the Taiwanese authorities are adjusting their strategic policy based on the Russian–Ukrainian war. It pays more attention to the strategic approach of “strike at the source” and “decisive battle abroad.” In addition to medium and long-range missiles, it will develop drone operations. 

He further explained that the source attack means that the Taiwan military’s missiles would attack the other sides airports, docks, missile silos, command posts, and critical military facilities after the Communist regime launches the first missile. 

According to Yao, in future Taiwan Strait operations, there are no longer battles of artillery and surface ships. Instead, there will appear missiles in large numbers in line-of-sight attacks and drone combat.

Development progress of Beijing’s aircraft carrier and unmanned systems

According to the U.S. military website The Drive report, on June 02, at least seven drones were spotted parked on the deck of China’s second aircraft carrier Shandong. There seemed to be two types of drones. One is the Dapeng CW-20 drone, and the other is the Xiangyi CSC-005 drone.

Meanwhile, China’s the third aircraft carrier, Type 003, was reportedly launched at the Dragon Boat Festival on June 3. However, the launch did not occur as scheduled, causing extensive discussions and reports on the Internet. 

Mainland media reported that on June 07, the first domestically-produced 100-ton unmanned boat completed its first autonomous maritime trial in the waters off Zhoushan, Zhejiang.

According to the U.S. media power website, China’s optional manned-unmanned boat is very similar to the U.S. Navy’s Sea Hunter unmanned ship. It is likely to be built to directly imitate the Sea Hunters test objectives.

Last month, Beijing said that the world’s first intelligent unmanned system mother ship “Zhuhai Cloud” was launched in Guangzhou. Zhuhai Cloud is a mother ship that can carry 50 drones, unmanned ships, and unmanned boats to conduct scientific research work. However, the world pays attention to its military application. 

Beijing’s unmanned systems are unable to form combat power

Xu Zhixiang, the Taiwan Institute of National Defense Security’s assistant researcher, told Da Ji Yuan on the June 9 that China and the United States are studying the drones’ future battlefield applications. 

The United States began testing drones on aircraft carriers very early. Meanwhile, Xu said that the disclosed photos show that the Shangdong aircraft carrier carrying the drone group is “using experiments to verify the concept and find its suitable use.”

According to Xu, drones can be used for many purposes, including collecting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). In addition, they may also mount offensive weapons, be used as wingmen of manned fighters, or assist cruise missiles and long-range anti-ship missiles in completing strikes. 

As for Beijing’s carrier-based drones’ specific use, director Chen Guoming of Taiwan’s “Global Defense Magazine” shared his opinion on June 8 with Da Ji Yuan News. 

According to Chen, Beijing’s ships equipped with these small drones are considered a new attempt, but they cannot constitute combat power. Chen said that it is necessary to use large drones to link with ships at sea to form combat power. While the United States has such a capacity, Beijing has not yet got it. 

However, suppose these drones or unmanned ships gather together and threaten Taiwan’s outlying islands such as Dongsha and Nansha Islands. In that case, Taiwan may take relevant countermeasures, such as strikes at the source.

The Chinese aircraft carrier may not be the main force during combat

Citing analysts, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Type 003 aircraft carrier uses a new electromagnetic catapult technology. The aircraft carrier’s technology is similar to that of the U.S. and French aircraft carriers. It launches aircraft farther on the continent.

According to Yao Cheng, Beijing’s aircraft carrier poses little threat to the offshore waters because it is large, slow-moving, and hardly conceals itself. Consequently, it is easy to become a target of attack in war. 

He supposed that Beijing’s aircraft carrier development aimed to prevent the U.S. and Japanese forces’ foreign intervention in Taiwan’s eastern waters before the outbreak of war. 

It aims to form the Taiwan Strait’s barrier and blockade, achieving its so-called anti-intervention area denial goal. 

However, Yao believed that Beijing would hide the aircraft carrier right after the war starts so it would not be sunk at once. Yao supposed that its combat effectiveness is lower than that of the U.S. aircraft carrier group. The U.S’s aircraft carrier can strike at a long distance even when the battlefield is thousands of miles away. 

As for whether the 003 type has advanced electromagnetic catapult technology, Yao Cheng said it is still uncertain. The 003 aircraft carrier is a diesel-powered conventional type, while the U.S.’s aircraft carrier type is Ford-class nuclear-powered. Only nuclear-powered carriers have a sufficient power supply. 

Therefore, the difficulty is very high if the 003 type uses the conventional power to push the carrier forward and also uses an electromagnetic catapult. Whether or not it has this capability is still in doubt. 

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