Asia Pacific UAV Compendium 2022

A close-up of a full scale model of the Teng Yun UAV being developed by the Aeronautical Systems Research Division (ASRD) of Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST). (Andrew Drwiega)
A close-up of a full scale model of the Teng Yun UAV being developed by the Aeronautical Systems Research Division (ASRD) of Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST). (Andrew Drwiega)

The value of unmanned aerial vehicles continues to grow in importance, with indigenous development increasing in all categories.

Regional military forces are accelerating their acquisition and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of ongoing modernisation efforts amid an increasingly uncertain geopolitical situation. In most of these cases, applications such as border/maritime patrol and surveillance, where extended range and loiter performance is required, has emerged the most pressing requirements.

Aerospace and defence market forecaster Teal Group noted in its 2021/2022 study that global military UAV procurement will increase to $13 billion annually by 2030, totalling $123.1 billion over the next decade. The agency also noted that research spending could be worth another $64.5 billion during the same period on the back of accelerated development work to field new platforms and capabilities.

While contemporary tactical and medium-altitude long endurance (MALE-class) UAVs have traditionally served in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) roles, there is nevertheless an emerging interest in the development of next-generation platforms that can undertake higher-end operations such as air-to-air combat, electronic warfare (EW), and long-range strike.

This supplement covers the latest UAV acquisitions and ongoing programmes for military forces in the Asia Pacific region.



For some time the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been aggressively pursuing unmanned and autonomous aircraft development, with its three services concurrently managing a broad range of development and acquisition programmes, from pocket-sized ‘nanocopters’ to high-end MALE and high-altitude long endurance (HALE) platforms, and even next-generation ‘loyal wingman’ combat systems.

In the latest development in May, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) made a single-source procurement of the rotary wing Schiebel S-100 Camcopter for the first phase of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) three-block $900 million Project Sea 129 Phase 5 Maritime Unmanned Aircraft System (MUAS) programme. An undisclosed number of S-100 Camcopters, reportedly up to 40 air vehicles, will be embarked on the eight in-service Anzac-class frigates and 12 Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) which will enter service from 2023. Future phases will refresh the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) capability and equip the RAN’s nine future Hunter-class frigates as well as other ship classes.

The Schiebel S-100 has been downselected by the Australian Department of Defence as the UAV of choice for its surface fleet. (Australian DoD)
The Schiebel S-100 has been downselected by the Australian Department of Defence as the UAV of choice for its surface fleet. (Australian DoD)

In March 2022, Insitu Pacific was announced as the preferred supplier by the DoD for the Australian Army’s new Tactical UAS under the Land 129 Phase 3 programme. The company will provide its Integrator UAS as well as associated ground control systems (GCS), with delivery expected between 2023 and 2024.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is set to expand its long-range maritime surveillance capabilities with six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton HALE UAVs, acquired in separate deals between 2018 and 2019. These are expected to enter service in mid-2023 and be fully operationalised by 2025. They are intended to complement the RAAF’s Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Australia is investing $19 million in the Loyal Wingman/Boeing Airpower Teaming System, which seeks to jointly develop a new generation of autonomous combat aircraft with potential fielding by the RAAF. The programme has progressed significantly, with two of three prototype aircraft having already flown by the end of 2021, as well as the launch of a new manufacturing facility at Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba, Queensland. In March, the RAAF’s Loyal Wingman programme was renamed the MQ-28A Ghost Bat although Boeing will continue to use the Airpower Teaming System designation for export purposes.

However, not all has been smooth sailing for the RAAF, with its Project Air 7003 programme – which had already progressed to selection of the strike-capable General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian along with a sensors and weapons package – unexpectedly cancelled in April to free up funds for cyber security development.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) currently operates the locally developed Kahu mini-UAV but has indicated its desire for more capable ISR UAVs in its Future Land Operating Concept 2035 paper, which outlines potential challenges for its armed forces in the next decade and beyond.

A similar desire had also been highlighted by the NZDF in its latest 2016 Defence White Paper, which proposed spending $12.5 billion out to around 2030 to enhance the capabilities of its various services, although both documents do not offer any specific timelines or preferred systems. In November 2018, then-NZDF chief Air Marshal Kevin Short told media that the service is seeking a new UAV capability by the mid-2020s.

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) has also indicated an interest to field a maritime UAV aboard its Otago-class OPVs, which would greatly benefit from an organic high-speed surveillance capability for their extended maritime and economic exclusive zone (EEZ) patrols. However, no formal requirement has been raised to date.



The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has fielded numerous types of UAVs across its ground, naval and air forces over the past decade. Most, if not all of these are produced by state-owned defence primes such as the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), although the number of private firms involved in military and dual-use UAV development has increased significantly. However, many of China’s military UAV programmes continue to be shrouded in secrecy.

The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) currently operates the AVIC Wing Loong I and II, designated Gongji-1 and Gongji-2 (Attack-1 and Attack-2), as its primary multirole ISR and aerial strike platforms. Developed by AVIC’s Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) subsidiary, the Wing Loong is a family of MALE-class UAVs that shares a close physical semblance to the US-made MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.

AVIC’s Wing Loong I and Wing Loong II are being used as the Chinese air force’s primary armed reconnaissance UAVs. (JR Ng)
AVIC’s Wing Loong I and Wing Loong II are being used as the Chinese air force’s primary armed reconnaissance UAVs. (JR Ng)

For more specialised missions such as strategic reconnaissance and ballistic missile targeting, the PLAAF has fielded the WZ-7 Xianglong (Soaring Dragon) and WZ-8. The Xianglong is believed to be the primary HALE UAV operated by the PLAAF for high-end ISR missions and is often compared to the US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk. The high-speed WZ-8 was first revealed at a military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of China’s founding in October 2019. Although no official information has been released, the WZ-8 is believed to be powered by two solid-state rocket engines and designed to be launched by a host aircraft such as the H-6 bomber.

The PLAAF also revealed the stealthy Gongji-11 (GJ-11) at the same parade. The GJ-11 is believed to be derived from AVIC’s Lijian (Sharp Sword) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) development, albeit improved with a blended fuselage that features enclosed exhaust nozzles. Close-up imagery indicates that the air vehicle is equipped with two internal payload bays.

Meanwhile, the PLA Navy Air Force (PLANAF) mainly uses the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) BZK-005 multirole MALE UAV that is specifically designed for long-range reconnaissance missions. It has been recorded flying close to Japanese waters since 2013, and has also been sighted periodically deployed to some of the disputed islands in the South China Sea including Woody Island in recent years.

While there is little public information about PLA UAV procurement programmes, there have been clear indications that there are multiple efforts underway across the various services. For example, the PLANAF is likely seeking a next-generation long-range maritime ISR UAV and has been testing potential candidates such as the twin-engine Tengden TB001 (Twin-tailed Scorpion). The type was sighted for the first time operating close to Japanese waters in August 2021, suggesting that it is undergoing evaluation.

Operational trials of rotary wing UAVs by the PLA Ground Force (PLAGF) have also been documented. These include the AVIC AV500W under development by AVIC’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI). The AV500W is a modified version of the civilian model AV500 VTOL UAV with a more robust structure and improved performance. Armed versions of the AV500W have also been tested by the PLAGF. The service has also ordered the armed Ziyan Blowfish A2 and the long-endurance reconnaissance Ranger P2-X VTOL UAVs for high-altitude border operations along the disputed Sino-Indian border.


The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is poised to expand its UAV operations, having recently receiving its first long-range persistent surveillance capability with the first of three Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk HALE UAVs acquired via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme arriving at the Misawa Airbase in northern Japan in March 2022. The Japanese RQ-4Bs are equipped with the Raytheon Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS).

Japan has also outlined in the latest Medium Term Defense Program (MTDP) its intent to actively develop technologies that will provide increased automation for the JSDF, including several initiatives to grow its indigenous UAV capabilities. One example is an ambitious UCAV project aimed at supporting the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) future manned fighter aircraft such as the F-X, which has secured $77 million in funding for further study. Initial lab research had already been conducted on a subscale UAV demonstrator from 2019 and flight testing of the air vehicle is expected around 2024.

North Korea

North Korea earlier acquired several types of Chinese and Russian-made UAVs such as the Xi’an ASN Technical Group ASN-104/D-4 and Yakovlev OKB Pchela-1T, but has since started local manufacture of the Chinese ASN-104 design, known locally as the Panghyon I, as well as the improved Panghyon II based on the ASN-105. Reports also indicate that the DPRK is developing a long-endurance UAV, with South Korean officials claiming that “numerous test flights” by such prototypes have been detected since early 2016.

South Korea

The Republic of Korea (RoK) is one of a handful of Asia Pacific countries that possess advanced aerospace industries and is pursuing wide ranging UAS development programmes. Present domestic development efforts largely centre on MALE-class platforms for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) and Republic of Korea Army (RoKA), the introduction of an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) capability, as well as VTOL and tiltrotor platforms.

Beyond serving the needs of its armed forces, the country aspires to be one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of world-class UAV systems, through key government agencies and industry primes such as the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and LIG Nex1.

In late December 2021, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) formally approved plans to indigenously develop shipborne surveillance and reconnaissance UAVs. The shipborne UAV project is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed by 2031 and has been provisionally allocated up to $475 million in funding. The new UAVs will be operated onboard the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN’s) KDX-II destroyers and will help monitor maritime areas and the north-western islands near the inter-Korean border.

The Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) is in advanced stages of its KUS-FS development. Also known as the Medium-Altitude UAV (MUAV), the KUS-FS MALE UAV is being developed for the RoKAF and is in the same class as the US MQ-9 Reaper. The multirole air vehicle is expected to perform missions such as communications relay, EW, ISR, as well as signals intelligence (SIGINT).

KAL-ASD is also developing a rotary-wing unmanned platform based on the MD-500 light attack helicopter. Flight endurance is extended to four hours with the installation of a large fuel tank in place of the rear passenger seats. If successfully developed, the KUS-VH could potentially support manned/unmanned-teaming operations with the RoKA’s AH-64E Apache Guardians, which already feature the ability to command UAVs.

The company is offering an unmanned tiltrotor aircraft developed jointly with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and based on the latter’s TR-60 system. The KUS-VT can carry a 30 kilogramme payload and has an operational radius of 108 nautical miles (200km) with an endurance of six hours. It is expected to perform autonomous VTOL and shipboard operations.


The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) has been reluctant to adopt unmanned technologies, with no UAVs known to be currently in service. The country’s largest and most capable UAV, the tactical-class Abatross/Chung Shyang II, is operated by the Republic of China Navy (RoCN). The country’s UAV development efforts are led by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST).

NCSIST is presently leading efforts to develop an indigenous MALE-class UAV called Teng Yun (Cloud Rider). The prototype Teng Yun was revealed at the 2015 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which appears to be modelled after the US RQ-9 Reaper platform. An updated and more robust prototype was subsequently rolled out at TADTE 2019. At least three Teng Yun prototypes were constructed, with one of these destroyed in a crash in February 2021.

Taiwan is developing the Teng Yun UAV for persistent surveillance operations, but a recent move to acquire US-made SeaGuardian UAVs has cast doubt on the domestic programme. (JR Ng)
Taiwan is developing the Teng Yun UAV for persistent surveillance operations, but a recent move to acquire US-made SeaGuardian UAVs has cast doubt on the domestic programme. (JR Ng)

However, it was revealed in November 2020 that Taiwan has also requested four ‘weapons ready’ GA-ASI MQ-9B SeaGuardian MALE UAVs and associated equipment. Besides the four air vehicles, specific mission equipment and other services requested by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) includes two static ground control stations (GCSs), two mobile GCSs; Wescam MX-20 electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, Raytheon SeaVue X-Band maritime radars, and Leonardo SAGE 750 electronic surveillance measures (ESM) systems.

Whether Taiwan will continue with development of its indigenous Teng Yun remains to be seen, given its interest in procuring proven and mature US military systems.



India has been involved in UAV development for over two decades, with research and development (R&D) organisations and defence companies such as Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), developing UAVs with ISR, targeting, and weapon guidance capabilities for decades.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is known to operate at least 20 Heron MALE UAVs for long endurance ISR missions, with the first examples delivered in 2001 and additional aircraft acquired since to equip army regiments situated along the disputed Sino-Indian border. The Indian Navy (IN) is believed to operate at least 12 Heron UAVs, with a number of these located at its Porbandar facility on the west coast to monitor the waters off Karachi. Taken together, the total number of MkI and MkII Herons in Indian military service likely exceeds 50 units.

India is reportedly in advanced discussions with the United States to acquire up to 30 MQ-9B Reaper UAVs – with customised variants for each service – worth up to $3 billion through FMS. However, there has been renewed interest in pushing indigenous UAV development in recent months with the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) announcing a ban on foreign UAV imports. The ministry noted that there can be waivers to facilitate imports for R&D and defence and security purposes, but such exceptions will be subject to clearances. Local media has reported that the number of Reaper UAVs may be ultimately reduced.

Instead, the locally developed Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance (TAPAS) UAV may be a potential candidate to meet the Indian armed forces’ armed reconnaissance UAV requirement, having completed a series of flight trials which will progress towards user evaluation trials.

Under development by HAL and DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the TAPAS is an evolution of the Rustom II UAV with the intention to produce an indigenous multirole MALE UAV to equip all three Indian military services. The platform is expected to undertake long-endurance missions, including communications relay, ISR, maritime patrol, as well as artillery fire direction and battle damage assessment (BDA).

HAL is also developing a Loyal Wingman-type UAV known as Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) Warrior, which was first unveiled at the Aero India 2021 exhibition following three years of initial R&D work. The CATS Warrior is a concept that adopts a similar configuration to the US Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie and is currently envisaged as a low-observable, multirole unmanned combat air vehicle that can be commanded from a Tejas light combat aircraft. The prototype CATS Warrior is reportedly expected to enter flight testing by 2024.


Likewise, Pakistan has attempted to grow its indigenous UAV industry after acquiring several types of Western-made UAVs, such as the German-made EMT Penzberg Luna, Italian Leonardo Falco, and US Boeing-Insitu ScanEagle. Concerted efforts to develop its indigenous UAV production capabilities have borne fruit, with several domestically produced systems already in service with the Pakistan armed forces.

These include the Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) Uqab II, a tactical short-range UAV system developed from the Eagle Eye and the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) Burraq. The latter appears to be heavily inspired by the Chinese-made CH-3 tactical UAV, of which at least 20 examples were believed to have been delivered to Pakistan in 2011. The Burraq entered service with the Pakistan Air Force in November 2013 and is equipped with two underwing hard points, which can be used to launch a variety of munitions including Barq laser-guided missiles.

In May 2019, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) released promotional material of the stealthy ZF-1 Viper UCAV concept, depicting a blended wing design with a 18m wingspan and a 35,000 pound (16,000kg) maximum take-off weight (MTOW). The effort is part of Pakistan’s ‘Project Azm’ which seeks to develop next-generation military aviation capabilities.

Pakistan has received five Cai Hong 4 (Rainbow 4, or CH-4) multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from China, according to official export-import (EXIM) logs released by the government. The UAVs, which were delivered by Chinese defence contractor Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co Ltd (ALIT), arrived in the South Asian country in January 2021. It is unclear, however, which variant of the CH-4 was ordered by Islamabad, and whether this delivery is part of a larger UAV order or just a limited acquisition of this UAV type, possibly for testing.



Indonesia has maintained a stated need for UAVs for several years in a bid to shore up defences across its huge territorial waters. Attempts to procure and indigenously develop UAV platforms for the Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – TNI) have been hindered by a lack of industrial and technical capabilities as well as financial constraints.

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) presently operates the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Cai Hong-4 (CH-4) MALE UAV which have been equipped with satellite communications systems that enable these air vehicles to operate out to 1,080nm (2,000km). The TNI-AU is the first regional air force to possess an armed UAV capability, having received AR-2 precision guided missiles for the CH-4B fleet in April 2021.

Indonesia has launched an indigenous MALE UAV programme called the Elang Hitam (Black Eagle). Under development by a consortium of local companies and led by PTDI, the Black Eagle is expected to enter serial production in 2024.


The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) presently operates UAVs such as the ScanEagle and the indigenously developed Alliance Unmanned Developmental Research Aircraft (ALUDRA) Mk1 tactical UAV. The country is looking to expand its use of UAVs – particularly by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) – as it seeks cost-effective measures to monitor developments in the South China Sea, Straits of Malacca, and the Sulu Sea near Sabah.

Local firm Deftech showcased two new systems at the Defence Services Asia 2022 (DSA 2022) exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in March, an unnamed tactical-class and the SR-01 hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV. Both are aimed at meeting future RMAF requirements.

The MAF continues to show interest in a MALE UAV capability, with Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI’s) Anka thought to be a leading contender.


The Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) is believed to be operating a range of Chinese, Israeli, and Russian-made UAVs, with several examples being highlighted in the coup that it launched against the civilian government in February 2021 as well as ongoing military action against rebel groups along its borders.

The Myanmar Air Force (Tatmadaw Lay) operates the Chinese-made CH-3A tactical UAV for long-range surveillance and close air support missions, while the army uses the Elbit Sytems Skylark I-LEX mini-UAVs. Russia is understood to have also supplied an unspecified number of Orlan-10E reconnaissance UAVs to Myanmar as part of a broader deal that also includes Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and radar systems.


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) have in recent years made significant efforts to boost long range aerial surveillance with the acquisition of tactical and MALE-class UAVs. In particular, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has sought UAVs to significantly bolster its ISR capabilities in the South China Sea to offset its limited inventory of patrol aircraft.

The Elbit Systems Hermes 900 is the first MALE-class UAV platform to be acquired by the Philippines, featuring a MTOW of approximately 2,650lb (1,200kg) and a 15m wingspan. Nine of these air vehicles were acquired under a $153 million package announced in October 2019 with all nine systems believed to have been delivered by the end of 2020.

The Philippine Air Force received a significant boost to its maritime ISR capabilities with the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 UAV, along with a range of smaller air vehicles. (Elbit Systems)
The Philippine Air Force received a significant boost to its maritime ISR capabilities with the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 UAV, along with a range of smaller air vehicles. (Elbit Systems)

Outgoing Philippine Secretary of Defence Delfin Lorenzana earlier stated that the Hermes 900s will probably operate from air bases on Palawan, an island facing the South China Sea, and on Mindanao, an island in the south of the country. The procurement of the MALE UAVs is part of the PAF’s ongoing modernisation programme, which also includes the acquisition of three Hermes 450 long-endurance tactical UAVs, two of which were handed over in August 2019.

Apart from the Hermes 450 and 900, the AFP has also ordered an undisclosed number of Elbit Systems’ Skylark LEX and Skylark 3 UAVs along with associated GCSs, support equipment, training, and integrated logistics support.


With a perennial shortfall in manpower, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) see technology as a critical force multiplier with the ongoing modernisation effort focusing deeply on the integration of command and control, ISR, and precision strike. In that regard, UAVs are considered a key enabler for the SAF’s transformational initiatives.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has operationalised a number of Hermes 450 tactical UAVs in March 2015, which were first delivered in 2007. The RSAF’s Hermes 450 UAVs are operated by 116 Squadron, which is based at the western Tengah Air Base. The RSAF also operates the MALE-class Heron 1 UAV, which was introduced in May 2012 and replaces the ageing IAI Searcher tactical UAV. The service’s Heron 1 UAVs were declared fully operational in March 2017, and are assigned to the 119 and 138 Squadrons.

The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is already looking into a replacement under its Next-Gen UAV programme, which is expected to introduce new systems to replace those “that are approaching the end of their operational lives in a few years”. According to an official modernisation roadmap released by MINDEF in March 2019, it is understood that the new UAVs will be introduced in the 2020s and are likely to be MALE-class platforms although specific details of the programme have yet to be disclosed.

Nevertheless, MINDEF announced in June 2021 that it has selected the locally designed Veloce 15 VTOL UAV to replace the Singapore Army’s Skyblade III mini-UAVs. The ministry subsequently announced in March 2022 that it has acquired the Aeronautics Limited Orbiter 4 UAV for the RSAF’s Close Range UAV (CR-UAV) requirement.

The Singapore Armed Forces has operationalised the locally developed Veloce V15 vertical take-off and landing UAV. It is also looking out for a next-generation MALE UAV capability. (MINDEF)
The Singapore Armed Forces has operationalised the locally developed Veloce V15 vertical take-off and landing UAV. It is also looking out for a next-generation MALE UAV capability. (MINDEF)


Thailand’s requirement for improved intelligence gathering has increased in recent years, with a concomitant growth in indigenous UAV research and development capability. The state-run Defence Technology Institute (DTI) is spearheading efforts to grow its indigenous UAV production capabilities and spur innovation within the local defence industry, with technical assistance from countries including China and Israel.

The Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF’s) Research and Development Centre for Space and Aeronautical Science and Technology has developed the medium-range Tigershark II tactical UAV and has reportedly received funding worth $18 million in 2016 to procure parts for up to 17 air vehicles.

The RTAF has fielded the indigenously developed R V Connex U-1 tactical UAV based on technologies derived from the Tigershark II and Sky Scout developments. The company is also integrating lightweight air-to-surface missiles to the air vehicle, with a potential candidate being the Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile.

In late June 2021, DTI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Royal Thai Army to develop a medium-range tactical UAV for the service’s Army Aviation Centre. The new UAV, called D-Eyes 04, is expected to replace the army’s Searcher MkII UAVs made by Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) which have been in operation since the early 2000s. DTI will partner with the army to develop and test UAV prototypes, with production outsourced to private manufacturers when completed.

Thailand has fielded several new tactical UAV capabilities such as the RV Connex U-1. It is also intending to develop a longer-ranged tactical UAV with Chinese technical assistance. (JR Ng)
Thailand has fielded several new tactical UAV capabilities such as the RV Connex U-1. It is also intending to develop a longer-ranged tactical UAV with Chinese technical assistance. (JR Ng)

The proposed D-Eyes 04 design will be based on Chinese firm Beihang UAS’ CY-9 platform. AMR was the first to report that Beihang entered into an agreement with DTI in November 2018 aimed at co-operation in areas such UAV research and development, production, and flight training. The D-Eyes 04 UAV is expected to be used by army artillery regiments as airborne battlefield surveillance and targeting assets, a role presently filled by the Searcher MkII platforms.


Vietnam is pursuing self-sufficiency in UAV development and production by leveraging on its considerable indigenous aerospace and communications R&D capabilities provided by the state-owned Vietnam Aerospace Association (VASA) and telecommunications company Viettel Group.

Vietnam reportedly acquired two Aeronautics Orbiter 2 and Orbiter 3 mini-UAVs between 2014 and 2015 to boost the situational awareness and targeting abilities of its artillery and coastal-defence missile units. The country is also one of the recipients of the US government’s $425 million Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) programme, which aims to mitigate the lack of maritime surveillance capability among its Southeast Asian partners. Under this initiative Vietnam would receive six ScanEagle UAVs along with associated training for operating these systems.

However, in recent years Hanoi has turned its attention to growing indigenous capabilities. For example, Viettel Group unveiled its Patrol VT tactical UAV in 2014. The air vehicle, which is developed by the company’s Flight Instrument Centre, is stated to be capable of operating out to 50km and carries an optical infrared camera that provides real-time transmission of high-definition imagery. It is now in service with the Vietnamese armed forces.

Local firms also appear to be moving up the value chain in terms of ambition. Vietnamese media have reported the existence of the HALE-class HS-6L, which has a twin-boom airframe and a wingspan of 22m. Stated performance include a range of up to 2,160nm (4,000km) and a 35-hour flight endurance. A prototype was reportedly completed by November 2015 with flight testing occurring during the second quarter of 2016. In addition, a mock-up of a new MALE-class UAV featuring a twin-boom airframe design was unveiled during a display of Vietnamese military equipment at the end of September prior to the launch of the 11th Party Congress in late September 2020.

by Jr Ng