Japan to deploy spy drone in 2015

JAPAN - The Japanese government has decided to deploy the Global Hawk, an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, in fiscal 2015 to strengthen patrol and surveillance activities around Japan, government sources said.

The Ministry of Defence will include 200 million yen (S$2.6 million) in research and study expenses in its budget request for the next fiscal year, which will stipulate the introduction of the aircraft in fiscal 2015, the sources said.

The ministry is in the process of choosing a site to deploy the spy drone, with particular attention on the US Air Force's Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.

The Air Self-Defence Force and the US Air Force will jointly operate Global Hawk to bolster surveillance activities, according to the sources. The Global Hawk can fly at an altitude of 18 kilometres, higher than that of commercial airplanes, for more than 30 hours. It can detect the movements of ships and airplanes.

The government judged it necessary to enhance deterrence with unmanned reconnaissance aircraft as there has been a surge in the number of cases in which the ASDF has scrambled fighter jets in response to moves by China's military aircraft.

The budget request will also include 4 million yen in research and study expenses for the deployment of a new early warning airplane in fiscal 2015 as well as 1.3 billion yen for two amphibious vehicles and 1.5 billion yen for training equipment.

The ministry plans to create what it has tentatively called an amphibious preparation unit in the Ground Self-Defence Force to beef up the defence of remote islands.

In addition, 1.7 billion yen will be included in the budget request to station a surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile system unit at the ministry in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on a permanent basis.