The Japanese Coast Guard, which also performs border guard service functions, has started operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to patrol waters near the country, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Wednesday.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAV took off on Wednesday afternoon from the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Hachinohe air base in Aomori Prefecture in northeastern Japan, the report said, adding that the aircraft is controlled from the ground by an operator.
The UAV is equipped with highly sensitive cameras capable of observing ships from an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) even at night using infrared radiation as well as other detection devices that allow the aircraft to avoid collisions.
In addition, the drone is equipped with radars and devices with artificial intelligence functions. The UAV will transmit footage for analysis in real-time, according to the report.
The SeaGuardian will be used for large-scale maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, including search and rescue operations, disaster response, and strike functions, in particular anti-submarine, the report said, adding that its acquisition cost 4 billion yen ($27 million).
The SeaGuardian is 11.7 meters (36 feet) in length and has a wingspan of 24 meters. The UAV is capable of flying for 24 hours, which will allow the drone to circle the entire perimeter of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the report.
Its management will reportedly be entrusted to specialists, while the maritime security service itself will take over monitoring and information analysis, the report said.
The maritime security service intends to increase the number of UAVs, and to this end, it wants to boost the budget for the 2023 fiscal year (from April 1, 2023) by 8.6 billion yen, the report added.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese may announce the signing of a new declaration on cooperation between the two countries in the field of security amid China’s growing military power, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported citing sources.
Kishida will hold talks with Albanese on October 22 in the Australian city of Perth, the news agency reported, adding that after the meeting, the parties may announce the new agreement. The document will highlight the importance of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” Other details regarding the content of the declaration are not specified.
According to the news agency, the new declaration on security cooperation should replace the document signed in 2007 by then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
The security pact provided for a significant strengthening of ties between the two countries in the field of defense, in particular, through joint training of Japanese and Australian military personnel in emergency situations and during peacekeeping operations. It also boosted the cooperation between the parties in the fight against terrorism and in the field of intelligence.
Top officials from Japan and Australia are also expected to discuss energy cooperation, in particular, gas supplies since Australia is one of the key exporters of gas for Japan, the report added.
In May, Kishida and Albanese had already discussed the declaration in light of China’s increasing presence in the region over the past 15 years, the news agency reported.