Sat, Aug 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Defense ministry to review limited use of older drones

By Chung Li-hua and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A Juiyuan unmanned aerial vehicle, used by the military’s Maritime Tactical Reconnaissance Group, is mounted on a truck on Sept. 5 last year.

Photo: Lo Tien-bin, Taipei Times

The Ministry of National Defense has pledged to review the Maritime Tactical Reconnaissance Group’s use of Juiyuan drones, after the National Audit Office in its fiscal 2017 audit report said that the unit was underdeployed and failed to live up to its original mission statements.

The unit was known as the Tactical Reconnaissance Group and was part of the army until September last year, when it was renamed and transferred to Naval Fleet Command

The group uses 12 drones, all of which were delivered to the army in 2012, but Army Command Headquarters by last year had not established a designated airstrip for them, the report said.

The lack of a designated airstrip limited the drones’ effective range to 100km around the Chihhang Air Base in Taitung County, which was used mainly for flight training, the report said.

Such restrictions meant that the squadron was unable to live up to its mission statement, which was to ensure round-the-clock patrols of coastal and harbor areas in the third combat theater — which includes areas and islands north of Miaoli County’s Houlong River (後龍溪) — the report said.

The squadron accrued only 576 total flight hours over one year, which is far too low, as it represented only 16 percent of the total flight hours made by logistics aircraft over that same year, the report said.

The squadron cost the army NT$3.5 billion (US$114 million) to set up, while NT$440 million was budgeted for maintenance fees between 2014 and last year, the report said.

Seven drones, which were acquired at great cost, have flown less than 10 hours since 2014, the year when their warranty expired, the report said.

The report also said that the ministry has yet to demand explanation from the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology regarding two class 1 flight security incidents causing irreparable damage to drones after 2014.

The ministry failed to apportion responsibility to individuals in one of the cases, in which human error was deemed the primary cause, and it did not report the drone as damaged, the report said.

The defense ministry said that the army was reviewing the possibility of increasing flight training and total flight hours by deploying drones tasked with reconnaissance over northern Taiwan to Chihhang Air Base.

The people responsible for the flight security incidents and abnormally low flight hours have been penalized, the ministry added.

The army added that as of September last year, the squadrons have been reassigned to the Navy, and Naval Fleet Command has set an annual target of 1,221 flight hours.

Total flight hours have not yet been finalized and could change, the navy said.

This story has been viewed 3163 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top