AeroVironment’s Switchblade launcher sits on display at AUSA 2023. (Tim Martin / Breaking Defense)

EUROSATORY 2024 — The US State Department today approved the potential sale to Taiwan of approximately $360 million-worth of drones capable of one-way attack.

In separate announcements, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office — the closest thing the island democracy has to an embassy in the US — had requested 291 ALTIUS 600M-V drones made by Anduril and 720 Switchblade 300 All Up Rounds made by AeroVironment and related equipment, for an estimated $300 million and $62 million respectively.

Both announcements say the potential sales would serve US interests in Asia-Pacific “by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability.”

“The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” the DCSA said.

Anduril’s Altius 600 loitering munition. (Courtesy of Anduril)

Along with the announcements, DCSA notified Congress of the potential sale, but the agreements are not final; the number of units and dollar figures involved can change as negotiations continue. Lawmakers could also technically step in to block the sale, but Taiwan enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

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The proposed deal comes amid a global rush to acquire relatively low-cost, expendable, one-way attack drones, as the conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated their usefulness in ever-evolving modern combat. The US has included both Altius and Switchblade drones in aid packages to Kyiv.

The notification also comes in the wake of Taiwan’s recent presidential election and heated rhetoric by Beijing since the victory of a new Taiwanese leader who is seen on the mainland to be pro-independence.

Various media reports emerged this week of a Chinese Type 094 Jin Class nuclear powered submarine, surfacing in the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taiwan Defense Minister Wellington Koo to say that the ministry has a “grasp” of the situation.

The Taiwan issue is a key flashpoint in relations between China and the US — relations that the State Department’s number two official said recently have been slowly warming since a chilly months-long silence by Beijing. Still, in the past China has sharply criticized US arms sales to Taiwan, and leaders there are unlikely to be happy about a potential new cache of American one-way attack drones.