But Hellscape would remain just that – a plan – if the United States declined to intervene in a Chinese attack on Taiwan. The possibility of full Republican control over the American presidency and the Congress following this November’s elections, means American isolationism – or, worse, a tacit American alliance with authoritarian powers – is a real risk.
Can Taiwan pull off Hellscape on its own? There are reasons to be optimistic. Two years ago, the Taiwanese defense ministry issued its first-ever tender for an aerial drone swarm. It asked local tech firms to produce an initial 3,000 drones for $159 million.
That’s a lot of money for just a few thousand drones, but it’s worth noting what Taipei is trying to do with the tender. It’s not just trying to buy a batch of drones – it’s also trying to encourage the expansion of the local drone industry, so that the industry will be ready to build a lot more drones fast if a Chinese invasion force begins massing.
There’s similar action on the surface drone front. The Taiwanese defense ministry has launched development of the Seashark 400 drone boat, which is essentially a copy of the Ukrainian Sea Baby. If Ukraine with its innovative but immature tech sector could build an entire robotic fleet in just a year or so, tech-powerhouse Taiwan should be able to build an even bigger robotic fleet, faster.
It shouldn’t wait. If China attacks, America might not be coming to Taiwan’s rescue. The island democracy’s drones might be the only thing that can save it.