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Japan to develop AI with US for ‘Loyal Wingman' UAVs

The Japan-US joint project aims to develop artificial intelligence and machine learning for new UAVs that will operate alongside Japan's next-generation GCAP fighter aircraft. (Japan Ministry of Defense)

Japan and the United States will conduct joint research to develop artificial intelligence (AI) for new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will be used in a ‘loyal wingman' role alongside the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) sixth-generation fighter aircraft.

The Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) signed an agreement on 22 December to initiate a “project arrangement” for the joint research, Japan's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) said.

According to the US Air Force (USAF), the project is known as Overwhelming Response through Collaborative Autonomy. The project's objective is to merge “state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) with advanced unmanned air vehicles”, the USAF said.

According to ATLA, the AI developed during this joint research “will be used to determine the behaviour of unmanned aircraft”. The USAF added that the AI “is expected to be applied to UAVs operated alongside Japan's next-generation fighter aircraft”.

The joint research programme is a direct result of an 8 December 2022 MoD-DoD joint statement on co-operation for Japan's future aircraft, according to the USAF. In their 2022 statement, the MoD and the DoD said they had “a series of discussions on autonomous systems capabilities”.

The latest agreement is expected to strengthen existing Japanese forays into AI research and integration of the technology with unmanned platforms. In 2022 the MoD proposed a programme to study how combat support UAVs can co-ordinate with manned aircraft, including sixth-generation fighter aircraft. Japan's fiscal year (FY) 2022 defence budget earmarked JPY10.1 billion (USD70.9 million) for this concept study.

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