USAF to Deploy MQ-9 Reapers to Japan for the First Time
After their first in-person talks in Washington on September 14, Japan’s Defence Minister Hamada Yasukazu and U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that they “welcomed the progress toward the temporary deployment of USAF MQ-9s to JMSDF Kanoya Air Base.” They agreed to “jointly analyse information acquired by Japanese and American assets, including MQ-9s.”
The MoD stated in documents that the temporary deployment of the UAVs is intended to conduct intelligence-gathering activities in waters near Japan, with a primary focus on the East China Sea, an implicit reference to China’s growing assertiveness in the region, particularly around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Tokyo controls but Beijing and Taiwan both claim. The Japanese MoD hopes the UAVs will benefit Japan’s security by strengthening maritime surveillance.
The airbase has a maritime patrol squadron equipped with Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions and a training squadron equipped with Mitsubishi (Sikorski) SH-60K/J and Airbus TH-135 helicopters. The Reapers will be stationed at the base for a year.