The Taiwan News reported that Taiwan is in talks with the United States to purchase at least four sophisticated aerial drones, according to six U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations. The U.S. State Department has quietly authorized the deal, although it is unknown if the drones will be equipped with armament, one of them said. The purchase has to be approved by Congress, which could receive a formal notification as soon as next month. Democratic and Republican U.S. senators on Thursday (August 6) introduced legislation that would prohibit sales of American drones to nations that are not close allies with the U.S. Drone sales would be allowed for NATO members, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Israel.
Taipei had put in the request to purchase armed drones early this year and Washington sent Taiwan the pricing and availability data for the purchase just last week, an important step that indicates official approval for the sale. However, this document is non-binding and does not guarantee a deal. The potential sale includes four SeaGuardian drones, ground stations, spare parts, training, and support and is valued at around US$600 million based on previous sales. One of the sources also added there could be an option for future additional unit purchases. The drone deal would be significant in that only close allies such as the U.K., Italy, Australia, South Korea, and Japan — have been cleared to buy advanced U.S. drones.
Taiwan currently has 26 Albatross drones developed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCIST), each weighing 55 kg with a 5.3-meter long fuselage and 8.6-meter wingspan. The development of its domestically made “Teng Yun” (Cloud Rider) drone is right on schedule, following news the country is close to finalizing a purchase of four General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers from the U.S. Resembling the American MQ-1 Predator, a prototype of the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drone was first exhibited in 2015. An improved model has been in development by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) since then.
The General Atomics MQ-9B SeaGuardian is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The SeaGuardian system feature a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles. SkyGuardian is built to achieve Type Certification based on STANAG (NATO standard) airworthiness compliance.