On October 29, 2020, the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) demonstrated the General Atomics’ MQ-9B SeaGuardian capabilities to local media.
The event took place at Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Hachinohe Air Base in Aomori Prefecture and Naval News’ Japan contributor Yoshihiro Inaba was on site.
The SeaGuardian is a maritime surveillance UAV developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) that can fly at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,000 meters) and can fly continuously for up to 30 hours (more than 25 hours on station). The aircraft is equipped with GA-ASI’s Lynx Multi-mode Radar and Raytheon’ SeaVue radar, as well as an EO/IR sensor to monitor vast areas of the ocean in all weather conditions.
The JCG’s decision to consider the introduction of UAVs was prompted by the Japanese government’s decision in December 2016 to adopt a new policy for maritime security. The policy is designed to strengthen the functioning of the JCG in response to the recent activity of Chinese fishing and government vessels in the waters around Japan. Therefore, it was decided to consider the introduction of UAVs for the purpose of continuous monitoring of these foreign vessels, especially those operating within Japan’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).In fact, Japan’s territorial waters, plus its EEZ, are the sixth largest in the world, and it would be difficult to keep watch of such a vast area with manned aircraft and patrol vessels alone.
JMSDF is also exploring the introduction of UAVs to account for the impact of future population decline, and in the Medium Term Defense Program (FY 2019 – FY 2023) announced in December 2018, it was specified that UAVs will be considered for implementation.
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