A new suicide drone appeared at the August 2019 edition of the biennial Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition in the island country’s capital. The small and hand-launched UAVs are similar to the ones used by the U.S forces. The other clearly draws inspiration from Israel’s Harpy anti-radar drone. A kamikaze drone may include a simple seeker head, which usually is a small, inexpensive cruise missile, usually possessing some loitering capability. Alternately, their operators remotely could steer them toward their targets. According to the aviation-news website Alert 5, “an air-to-ground strike assault UAV,” appeared at the Taipei trade show known as the Fire Cardinal drone.

Taiwan’s Kamikaze Drone: The Fire Cardinal

Four feet long, the twin-propeller Fire Cardinal has a six-foot wingspan and weighs around 15 pounds (6.8 kg). It includes an electro-optical and infrared sensor and selects its target using what Alert 5 described as an “intelligent object-detection system”

Alert 5 did not specify Fire Cardinal’s range, but it’s roughly the same size as the U.S. Army’s hand-launched Puma surveillance drone. The propeller-driven Puma can range as far as 10 miles at an altitude of 500 feet and a maximum speed of around 50 miles per hour.

Kamikaze drone - Fire Cardinal Taiwan
The Fire Cardinal Drone

There is a human operator which controls a Puma via radio. The Fire Cardinal features a similar control system considering its own modest range and performance. Ground troops in close proximity to enemy forces could lob many Fire Cardinals into the air in the hope of overwhelming the enemy’s short-range air defenses.

The other suicide drones in Taiwan targets the air-defense themselves. The Chien Hsiang drone first appeared in 2017 at the Taipei trade show which resembles the eight-foot-long Israeli Harpy UAV. $2.5 billion will be spent on developing the truck-launched Chien Hsiang through the early 2020s, Taiwan Air Force’s Air Defense and Missile Command stated.

Drone Fleet Could Counter China’s Expansion Strategy

“The domestically produced anti-radiation UAV can detect and attack radar emitters on enemy vessels or electromagnetic wave sources in their weapon systems,” UAS Vision noted, citing Taiwanese media. “Their flight range is said to be able to cover radar stations along China’s southeastern coast.”

To counter China’s expanding advantage in ships, planes, and troops, Taiwan is counting on the kamikaze drone fleet. China can muster potentially thousands of aircraft, hundreds of ships and hundreds of thousands of troops for a possible invasion of Taiwan.

Taiwanese media on Aug. 4, 2019, reported that the country’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology had cleared the Yun Feng cruise missile for mass production. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the supersonic land-attack missile has been under development and can fly as far as 1,200 miles. That range could allow Taiwan to threaten many of the airbases, ports and other facilities from which China likely would stage any attempt to invade Taiwan.

Taipei reportedly is building an initial 20 Yun Feng missiles as well as 10 truck-based launchers. Taiwan’s Up Media described the missiles as “the top priority of the various studios of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”