Japan plans to build its own early warning ‘wingman’ UCAV

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TOKYO ($1=133.91 Japanese Yens) — Japan is starting work on developing its own unmanned combat aerial vehicle [UCAV] with US technology assistance. The information was published in the Japanese newspaper Nikkei and the new drone should strengthen Japanese airspace and increase deterrence.

Photo: AP

According to Nikkei, the Japanese UCAV will have to carry out early warning and detection of enemy aircraft and missiles. The Ministry of Defense initially focused on a reconnaissance drone, but sources in Tokyo say the government is considering equipping the UAV with missiles to destroy enemy weapons systems, thus changing the original design from AUV to UCAV.

As part of the development, the UCAV prototype is expected to be ready by fiscal 2025. The goal is for the first batch of UCAVs to start flying in the fiscal year 2026.

Loyal to UCAV, similar to Wingman

UCAVs will be equipped with artificial intelligence [AI] and will fly autonomously in front of fighter jets. The Japanese UCAV will receive instructions from pilots or a remote command center and will fly based on the AI’s assessment of the terrain and weather conditions.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces already have US-made Global Hawk UAVs in their inventory, but these UAVs can only perform surveillance missions.

Japan also aims to develop a fighter to replace the F-2, the main fighter in Japan’s air force, by 2035. The developed UAVs are expected to work in integration with the new fighter jets. 2035 is the same year that China plans to modernize its weapons, so Japan is trying to do the same with its military.

The number of UCAVs planned to be produced initially is indicated as 100.

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