An abandoned airport in Ilan County has been partially restored by the military to become a test base for two types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).
The new test base for the UAVs will become operational today, when the live-fire demonstration of the Hankuang No. 19 exercise begins in Ilan. The Hankuang-series exercises are extensive joint-operations drills held annually.
The base, which cost the military tens of millions of NT dollars to rebuild, was used during the Japanese colonial period. It had been the base of some of Japan's kamikaze pilots.
For more than a month, CSIST technicians have been at the base testing two UAVs that they have developed.
The UAVs include a larger model named "Chung Hsiang" and a smaller one called "Kestrel." The two are still prototypes and have yet to go into production.
Even though they have been under development for several years, the Hankuang No. 19 exercise will mark the first time they are put on show to the public.
In today's live-fire demonstration, the Chung Hsiang and Kestrel will collect images of ships being targeted by three different kinds of anti-ship missiles, defense sources said.
The Chung Hsiang will shoulder most of the responsibilities since it has bigger payload and greater range.
A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the UAVs will be used mainly for reconnaissance and that they could not to be used offensively.
"The UAVs developed by the US military have wider applications. They can be used as attack weapons. But our UAVs will not have such functions," the official said.
But the military has become more interested in UAVs since seeing the outstanding performance of similar machines used by the US.
Developments in China have also raised the profile of the UAV in the eyes of the military.
China has deployed along its southeastern coast a type of UAV armed with an anti-radiation missile developed by Israel.
The Israeli-made missile can severely damage radar sites on the ground, which is one of the reasons why the military is thinking of developing countermeasures based on UAVs.