Quiet intrusion: Chinese drone ‘roams’ Japanese Izumo warship deck

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“There is a small scandal in Japan,” you’d discover in a post on X [previously known as Twitter]. Accompanying this post is a startling video clip, courtesy of a civilian drone camera, as claimed by the Clash Report account. Witness the drone gliding, seemingly without constraints, at a snail’s pace, and barely above the deck of the Japanese helicopter carrier, JS Izumo DDH183, belonging to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. This video came to public attention on March 30, while the ship was docked at Yokosuka, as the linked tweet indicates. 

One might find it quite challenging to ascertain the authenticity of this video. There are obstacles in determining whether we’re viewing an actual recorded scene or an intricately crafted 3D graphic. But, from the very beginning of the reel, you could spot cars traversing a bridge to the right, each at their own pace. Notably, the Japanese flag is fluttering as expected – there’s no glitch in the frames, no signs of artifice, and so on. The sea waves aren’t still either, indicating a dynamic scene. Despite these indicators, a nagging sense of doubt continues to linger… 

This uncertainty arises from the disquieting realization of how a drone was permitted such unrestricted access over a military vessel. Just as the Twitter post raises the alarm, this is more than scandalous. The confusion is mirrored in the comments beneath the post as well, with many users expressing their bemusement. Regardless of the operator’s nationality – whether Chinese or Japanese or even a tourist – the situation is baffling. How did it happen that one of Japan’s most recent attack and deterrent weapon systems was so openly exposed to the lens?

AI?

I’ve got a hunch that may be right on target. As we delve deeper, we uncover the possibility that this might be a spurious hoax, presumably orchestrated by artificial intelligence technology. A senior official from the Japanese defense ministry has been mentioned in various Japanese publications as suggesting the video might be a hoax. 

Central to this conjecture is the innocuous digit “8” marked on the deck in the video’s opening frame. The Japanese official infers that this should have been altered to read “83”. The video was circulated on YouTube, but its credibility remains clouded in suspicion, particularly when the creators of the video themselves question, “Could this be a fabrication by AI?” in the title. Furthermore, reports from Japan imply that the number on the Izumo was partially obscured during refurbishment. 

Photo credit: YouTube

Here’s another odd observation. Do you remember the cars speeding on the bridge? It strikes me as odd how the cars traveling in one direction [closer to the viewer] either move at a crawl or remain stationary, while a few cars in the opposite lane overtake them at high speed. It seems unnatural for the cars to continue moving at a snail’s pace despite the sizable gap between them. 

Then there’s this – the immobile buildings visible in the right-hand view as the drone descends, preparing to glide over the deck. There’s absolutely no movement – no people, rustling trees, or swaying branches. Everything remains static.

83

The supposed inscription of “83” on the ship’s hull is the strongest indication that the video in question might be a spurious hoax. To substantiate this suspicion, I combed through the internet to unearth official footage of the mentioned Japanese vessel. 

Interestingly, what emerged from my search were instances where the Izumo was associated with the number “83” or with no digit at all. However, the standalone occurrence of the numeral “8”, as depicted in the video under scrutiny, is conspicuously absent.

JS Izumo

As a pivotal component of Japan’s naval defense setup, the DDH-183, also known as the JS Izumo, is not a vessel to be overlooked. Boasting a total full-load displacement of around 27,000 tons, it can host an impressive range of up to 14 helicopters. This includes the SH-60K anti-submarine warfare variants and other utility models. Its key objectives are far-reaching and versatile, spanning from anti-submarine warfare to disaster relief and humanitarian missions. 

The JS Izumo is a beacon of technological brilliance, armed with the latest surveillance and defense systems. This ensures it can stand its ground in various operational settings. Its sheer size—approximately 248 meters in length, a width of 38 meters, and a draft nearing 7.5 meters—attests to its commanding presence in the marine environment. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Given Japan’s constitutional limitations, the JS Izumo is not heavily armed. However, it is equipped with defensive weaponry such as the Close-In Weapon Systems [CIWS], specifically designed to combat airborne threats. The possibility of transforming it into an aircraft carrier capable of accommodating fixed-wing aircraft like the F-35B is currently under consideration, but the final decision is pending. In a nutshell, the JS Izumo is a testament to Japan’s dedicated focus on maritime security. It also signifies the nation’s evolving role in the regional defense landscape.

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