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Japan to start testing MQ-9B sea guardian drones in southern territory in 2024

Japan to start testing MQ-9B sea guardian drones in southern territory in 2024

Tokyo, Feb 16 (UNI) Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) will start test flights of its new MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) on the Kanoya air base in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in April 2024, Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara said on Friday.
Since May 2023, the UAVs have been tested on the Hachinohe air base in the northern Japanese prefecture of Aomori.
There will be three take-off and landing test flights from April to June, followed by three more full-scale test flights in the South China Sea, Kihara said.
"The goal is to check whether they [the UAVs] can partially take over the monitoring functions. We will use the knowledge gained and further consider the possibility of their full deployment," the minister said.
In November 2022, the United States deployed MQ-9 Reaper UAVs at the Kanoya base. In August, one of the UAVs rolled off the runway during landing, causing damage to equipment. The incident encouraged the Japanese authorities to launch work on improving the model, Kihara explained.
"The MQ-9B Sea Guardian is a newly designed model, even though its size is different from the MQ-9 Reaper," the minister told a press conference.
The MQ-9B Sea Guardian is capable of carrying out surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike functions, including anti-submarine warfare. The drone is 38.4 feet long, with a wingspan of 78.7 feet. The UAV's flight time of 35 hours enables it to cover all the perimeter of Japan's exclusive economic zone without recharging. Thanks to cameras installed on the fuselage, it can also transmit filmed information in real time.

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