Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 4 News List

AIDC to buy new drone for three services' use

DEFENSE The US-made Voodoo drone will help the nation improve its anti-aircraft capabilities

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two visitors have a discussion about the model of an AH-1Z attack helicopter on the opening day of the Taipei Aerospace Technology Exhibition 2003 at the Taipei World Trade Center yesterday. The event will run until Sunday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The state-run Aerospace Industry Development Corporation (AIDC) will buy next year a new high-speed target drone for use by the three services in building anti-aircraft capabilities, the AIDC said yesterday.

A model of the US-made Voodoo drone is currently on display at the 2003 Taipei Aerospace Technology Exhibition (TATE) at the Taipei World Trade Center. It is one of the items that the AIDC showcases at the exhibition held every two years.

The AIDC said the Voodoo drone might not be the best of its kind but that it is much cheaper than top-end products of its category.

The Voodoo could be used by the three services for the practice of firing of missiles against aerial targets, mainly fighter planes.

The air force is likely to be the first user since it does not have a target drone of this kind for combat pilots to test-fire air-to-air missiles.

The air force has its own target drones, which have better capabilities but are much more expensive and fewer in number.

These high-end drones are often reserved by the air force for highly difficult missile tests, but are not enough in number for general practice by combat pilots.

An official with the AIDC said under the circumstances, the air force does need to have a lower-end drone for general practice.

"The Voodoo is a high-speed drone that could meet the air force's need for testing air-to-air missiles. It could also be used by the army and navy for the tests of their air defense missiles," the official said.

"If the three services have a great need for the drone, we could produce it in Taiwan under license from the original US manufacturer," he said.

The AIDC, the developer of the IDF fighter, now earns money from a diversity of businesses, including renting target drones to the three services for missile tests.

Besides the Voodoo, the AIDC has already bought a similar drone from Britain.

The British-made Banshee drone, which is lower in speed and cost, has been used by the army in the first round of the Hankuang No. 19 exercises in mid-May in Ilan. The second round of the exercises is to be held from Sept. 1 also in Ilan.

In the mid-May exercises, the army fired vehicle-mounted Stinger missiles against a Banshee launched from a mountain in Ilan.

A defense official, who has knowledge of the test results, said it was amazing that all the Stinger missiles missed the slow-flying Banshee. The Banshee was flying only at a speed of only 190kph.

"The missiles might have missed the target because the test was aimed at finding out whether they could achieve accuracy at their maximum range," the official said.

Also at yesterday's TATE, Bell Helicopter opened a press conference to introduce its newest product, the AH-1Z attack helicopter in an attempt to compete with the Boeing-made AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter that the army is highly interested in buying.

It is generally believed that the army has already decided to buy the AH-64D.

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