Japan plans to develop unmanned drones that can fly to support fighter jets for the government to enhance the defense of its airspace and prevent threats. These drones are expected to be developed in collaboration with the U.S., allowing the two countries to work closer.
These drones will be used for faster detecting enemies’ aircraft and missiles. Government officials are also looking into installing missiles on drones to intercept missiles launched by an adversary.
The government plans to create an air combat prototypes in fiscal 2025. Then drones in the finished form after fiscal 2026.
Drones have been hailed as game-changers, altering the nature of battle in Ukraine. Kyiv’s military has employed drones to target Russian ships that were part of the war.
U.S., Europe, China, and other nations have devised advanced strategies that blend uncrewed and manned combat aircraft, rather than relying on the two alone, aiming to increase the range of air force operations. Japan, as well as Europe, China, and the U.S., is hurrying to construct remote drones, believing they will be an integral part of aerial combat.
The drones will be outfitted with artificial intelligence (AI) and will fly autonomously ahead of fighter aircraft. The drones will receive commands from pilots or a remote command center and will pass according to the AI’s analysis of the environment and weather conditions.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces already possess drones like those made by the U.S.-Global Hawk, but they’re only for surveillance and not for combat. Currently, the country has not deployed drones that fly alongside fighter jets as per the Defense Ministry.
Japanese government is working on a brand new fighter aircraft that will replace the F-2 and is aiming to deploy it in 2035. The drones will assist these new jets. 2035 is the time frame for China’s modernization of its military. Japan is therefore looking to improve its capabilities that let the unmanned and the manned aircraft work together.
U.S. military believes China might be preparing to seize Taiwan, the island it claims as its territory, through force in 2027. If this occurs, Japan’s air defense system that relies on drones would not be operational in time. At present, Japan intends to enhance security by conducting joint drills using MQ9 drones that the U.S. military will temporarily deploy in Japan during the summer. The MQ9 drone, which is the drone that the U.S. military uses in Iraq and Syria, can also conduct offensive missions.
Drones are a great way to gain an advantage in air-to-air battles. They can also fly into places difficult for fighter aircraft to reach. They will also ease the workload on pilots. Compared to China and other nations, there is a relatively small amount of SDF personnel in Japan.
Use AI To Make Decisions Regarding Human Life?
Unmanned aircraft operations will be the primary means of aerial warfare in the coming years. The joint development from Japan and the U.S. will make it easier to improve interoperability.
The government is expecting Japanese firms to lead the effort so that it is easier to adapt the equipment aid in helping Japan to maintain its defense industry. They are also working with the U.S. to develop a successor to the F-2 fighter jets currently operating.
Manned fighter jets cost 10-billion yen ($77 million) each. The cost of flying unmanned is considerably cheaper.
Concerning the number of drones to use, one suggestion is to maintain the same number as the F-2 fighters.
The world has raised ethical concerns about using AI in decisions that affect people’s lives. In this regard, The Defense Ministry intends to ensure that humans are the sole decision-makers for drones.
Japan includes China and Russia as its neighbors, and all are assembling their military. It is becoming increasingly clear from the number of scrambles carried out by the Air Self-Defense Force. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised fears that some countries may attempt to change the current situation in Asia with force.
Japan’s decision to develop unmanned drones is a game-changer that will alter the way of battle. It also signals Japan’s need to improve its air defense systems.