Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) has been flight testing the Tengyun II unmanned aerial vehicle for the past two weeks.
The NCSIST is checking the aircraft’s range and endurance, “optical performance, command and control as well as other features, including the surveillance capability,” South China Morning Post quoted a source as saying.
The outlet added that the medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft flew over the sea for close to three hours, meeting the “basic flight requirements” of the ministry of defense.
The aircraft will reportedly be combat tested next month, followed by an expected induction alongside a fleet of four US-made MQ-9B Sea Guardians. The Taiwanese government purchased the General Atomics drones and related equipment from the US in 2020 for $600 million.
According to Taiwan News, the armed indigenous drone is integral to the territory’s coastal defense strategy, including the locally-made anti-radiation missile drone Jiangxiang and indigenous submarines.
A second version of the Tengyun was required as the Taiwanese Air Force rejected the first over electronic system reliability concerns.
In response, the NCSIST incorporated several improvements in the upgraded model, including “enhanced thrust, greater range, more payloads, an enhanced flight control system and a triple-backup power system,” South China Morning Post reported.
The institute has built four Tengyuns — two each of the first and second models.
The aircraft resembles the US MQ-1 Predator drone and can use AGM-114 Hellfire missiles fired by the General Atomics drone. The new version of the craft also uses a US-made engine, according to Liberty Times.