Taiwan’s New Albatross II Drone: Designed For Air to Air Combat with Mach 5 ‘Sky Sword’ Missiles

The Republic of China Air Force, the official name of Taiwan’s air force, is set to receive a new class of unmanned aircraft capable of deploying beyond visual range Sky Sword II air to air missiles to engage enemy aircraft. Developed jointly by Geosat Aerospace & Technology Inc. and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the Albatross II drone is expected to be one of the first in the world with an anti aircraft missile capability and the first capable of using active radar guided missiles at long ranges. The aircraft is an enhanced successor of the currently operational Albatross, and benefits from a 67% longer range, longer communication range, satellite communications and an integration of a synthetic aperture radar. Although a number of countries have invested in developing unmanned aircraft capable of air to air operations, none have yet integrated a weapon matching the Sky Sword II - a missile developed for Republic of China Ching Kuo fighters which boasts a 100km range and a near unrivalled Mach 5 speed. 

Geosat CEO Lo Cheng-fang highlighted that the Albatross II could enter mass production as early as 2023, and stressed that it comfortably outperformed the Turkish Bayraktar drone which has taken significant losses in Ukraine and Syrian in recent years. Drones’ much lower operational costs than manned fighters, as well as their greater potential to manoeuvre without harming pilots, has led them to widely be seen as the future of air to air combat. The ability of the Albatross II to seriously transform the balance of power between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, which govern in Taipei and Beijing respectively and are still technically in a state of civil war, neverthless remains questionable due to advances in air to air missile and stealth technologies on the Chinese mainland. They could potentially provide a low cost option of expanding the arsenal of anti aircraft missiles in the air at any one time however.

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