The US and Taiwan to make UAVs like they make iPhone

Taiwan's drone industry chain requires further development, but its strength rests in OEM manufacturing.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Throughout the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have repeatedly demonstrated their value to the armed forces of many nations. A delegation of twenty-five US defence contractors visited Taiwan in April, intending to create a drone supply chain in collaboration with Taiwan. The technological advantages of the United States, combined with Taiwan’s strength in producing small and medium-sized drones, could enhance Taiwan’s national defence independence and capabilities and provide the opportunity for Taiwanese small and medium-sized enterprises to be integrated into the US military industry. 

Following the conclusion of a delegation of US defence contractors’ visit to Taiwan, analysts predict the US and Taiwan to begin cooperation in defence supply chains, including drones.

Taiwan manufactures small and medium-sized commercial drones well and has advantages in semiconductors, precision of metal processing, and information security. In addition, Taiwan is researching and developing large-scale drones equipped with attack-capable Sky Sword I air-to-air missiles, which benefit the United States and Taiwan’s collaboration in developing military drones.

Taiwan’s drone industry chain requires further development, but its strength rests in OEM manufacturing. Components, such as the infrared photoelectric system outfitted with drones for homeland security monitoring, have long been purchased by American manufacturers.

The cooperation paradigm for drones and missiles is similar to the iPhone’s. The United States is responsible for design and development, while production is delegated to other regions. The foundry industry in Taiwan is extremely robust. Taiwan can be a reliable ally if it cooperates with the United States. On the one hand, it will prevent China from dominating drone exports through the use of drones. Second, the industrial cooperation of democratic nations can prevent China’s inexpensive drones from dominating the global market.

TrendForce, a market research company, says that the world market for military UAVs will grow 27.6% per year, going from US$16.5 billion last year to US$34.3 billion in 2025.

The price advantage of Chinese drones diminishes the market for U.S.-made drones. UAVs manufactured in the United States are expensive, but their performance is mature. The flight performance of Chinese UAVs is comparable, but the electronic flight control system, including target sensing, mission computers, and electronic warfare countermeasures, is inadequate. Chinese drones cannot compete with American drones because China lacks sophisticated chips, has no actual combat experience, and has inferior software parameters.

In particular, unmanned aerial vehicles cannot rely solely on radio and satellite communication mustn’t be disrupted. Therefore, the avionics system is significantly more important than the airframe. After the United States, China is the second largest space communication power globally. Unlike the US, which has over 3,000 military satellites in medium orbit, China only has more than 500 satellites. However, its monitoring and satellite communication system is complete and can be used by unmanned ships and planes. If the United States and Taiwan collaborate, Taiwanese military drones will utilise the US satellite system to guarantee a more comprehensive and dense satellite system than the People’s Liberation Army.

Taiwan’s strength in manufacturing

According to a 2018 National Defense Security Research Institute study, Taiwan’s chip leader TSMC’s 16-nanometer process chips have been certified by the US military for use in F35 fighter jets. Only TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung supply such advanced chips worldwide. TSMC accounts for as much as 90% of the supply.

Some Taiwanese metal processing factories already provide parts for American F35 fighter jets and other Taiwanese composite material factories help make bulletproof seats for American Apache helicopters. Panels and laptops made in Taiwan are also used in F22 and F35 fighter jets, Hummer vehicles, and artillery missile vehicles. This means the US and Taiwan work together on various military and industrial projects.

Advantages of US Taiwan Cooperation in Drones

Drones are useful because they are cheap, easy to move around, and used by many people. It can help get weapons to where they need to be and place missiles to help fight. If the United States can give Taiwanese drones more AI image processing technology, Taiwanese drones will be able to spot targets more accurately. The United States can become less dependent on China if the supply chains in Taiwan are more stable.

In the future, UAVs will be fairly big, move quickly, and even be able to do reconnaissance and strike simultaneously. Taiwan doesn’t have to start from scratch, and the US and Taiwan can work together to speed up growth. Countries all over the world need UAV systems. Taiwan could be a major alternative if China has to be dethroned from this market.

In addition to bolstering the defensive systems of both sides and the security of the first island chain as a whole, the United States continued expansion of the drone production line in Taiwan will assist in boosting Taiwan’s ability to defend itself independently.

The sudden rise of China’s drones

China is presently the leader in drone production, even though Taiwan is more competitive in several other manufacturing fields. The technology behind drones is rapidly evolving in China, and consumers now have access to a comprehensive set of options. In addition to the series of commercial drones produced by DJI, the military uses drones manufactured by Rainbow and Wing Loong. These have been manufactured in large quantities and then sent to the Middle East. Drones developed in China pose the greatest risk to US national security and the security of its allies, according to the US.


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