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A Message from our Chairman: Response to Release of Australia’s “2020 Defence Strategic Update” and “2020 Force Structure Plan”
July 10, 2020

Watching Over the Taiwan Strait: The Role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Taiwan’s Defense Strategy

Satellite view of the Taiwan Strait. (Source: Gallo Image/Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data 2019.)

By: Ian Easton, Mark Stokes, Yang Kuang-shun, Eric Lee, and Colby Ferland |

Unmanned systems are likely to transform the Taiwan Strait battle space in the coming years. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has fielded a large and increasingly sophisticated force of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) opposite Taiwan. This underscores the importance of exploiting advanced unmanned systems to deter opportunistic acts of aggression, and to defeat the PLA’s potential use of force in the event that deterrence should fail. This report examines the current state and trajectory of Taiwan’s indigenous UAV capabilities, and illuminates the role UAVs play within both Taiwan’s defense strategy and the American-led Indo-Pacific security network more broadly. In addition, this report evaluates the PLA’s organizational infrastructure designed for a Taiwan campaign, discusses cross-Strait political-military challenges, and highlights future opportunities to expand U.S.-Taiwan military and security cooperation as part of long-term strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).