The facts are these, that Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Forces may soon start flying unmanned drones launched from its destroyers very soon as Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ups the ante on China’s growing assertiveness in the region, this according to reports in the Japan Times. For some though, this may just be a precursor to Tokyo formally acquiring or building for itself a fixed-wing aircraft carrier, an act that may be seen as overtly offensive by its neighbors, given Japan’s current pacifist post-World War II constitution.
“The Maritime Self-Defense Force is considering deploying fixed-wing unmanned reconnaissance aircraft that can take off from and land on destroyers,” said the report. With the current tensions in the region and the tenor of Abe’s administration these days, it feels like the plan will soon be approved. “Depending on its research, Japan might someday build an aircraft carrier equipped with fighter jets,” the report added, citing unnamed sources. The Defense Ministry has continued to deny this, saying that the studies on unmanned drones will not lead the MSDF to operate fighter jets from surface ships in the future. The report’s source from the Defense Ministry said that unmanned drones would be deployed because they can operate in “dangerous areas in emergencies.”
The decision move to use drones seems consistent with Japan’s defense strategies, especially as China has continually breached what Tokyo deems as sovereign territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands (claimed by the Chinese as the Diaoyus). Japan intends to procure RQ-4 Global Hawk drones in the coming years in addition to the ones the United States already operates in the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa.
Another fact that provides fuel to these reports is Abe’s continued vocal commitment to breaking free from Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution. The MSDF currently has helicopter carriers, ostensibly for search-and rescue purposes and for disaster mitigation and recovery. A move to getting a fixed wing aircraft carrier could be construed as an offensive military capability, which Japan’s constitution prohibits, and could take the tensions in the region to a higher level than it already is at the moment.
[via The Diplomat]
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