The US Air Force is preparing to operate MQ-9 Reapers from a base in southern Japan for the first time. The deployment will benefit the intelligence collection of the Japan-US alliance. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Daniel Snide)
The United States Air Force (USAF) is deploying General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the first time in Japan.
Eightunarmed MQ-9 UAVs will deploy to Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima prefecture for maritime intelligence collection, “especially from the East China Sea”, the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) told Janes.
“Japan and the US mutually confirmed that the deployment period is one year starting from the initiation of the US MQ-9 operation for intelligence collection,” the MoD added.
This is the first US deployment of UAVs in the south of the country. Data shows that the new deployment is also the most substantive basing of US UAVs in the country to date.
As the southernmost airbase in the main island chain of Japan, Kanoya Air Base hosts maritime reconnaissance units of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
According to Janes data, the airbase has one maritime patrol squadron with Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions and one training squadron with Mitsubishi (Sikorski) SH-60K/J and Airbus TH-135 helicopters. As part of the force structure realignment of US Forces Japan and the SDF as described in the “United States-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation”, a US Lockheed Martin KC-130 tanker squadron has been deploying to Kanoya Base and Guam on a rotational basis since September 2019, according to the Japanese MoD's White Papers.