The Yomiuri Shimbun reports on 05NOV12 the Defense Ministry’s plans to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of detecting ballistic missiles. Accordingly, the Ministry has earmarked 3 billion yen ($372 million) over the next four years to develop the aircraft, which would come into operation in 2020.
The development of the drone, which will be equipped with an infrared sensor to seek out low-altitude missiles, comes after Japan failed to detect North Korea’s failed rocket launch in April.
According to the YS, Japan currently uses ground radar and Aegis destroyers to detect missile launches, while also relying on data from U.S. forces’ early-warning satellites. However, this system can only detect missiles that have reached a certain altitude. Ergo, when North Korea’s missile failed at an early stage, Japanese resources could not detect the rocket because of its low-altitude flight path.
Beyond North Korea, the ministry expects the UAVs to provide marine surveillance to monitor Chinese Navy’s movements in the East China Sea, as well as gather information in areas contaminated with radioactive substances from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Chinese vessels have moved in and out of what Japan says is its sovereign territory over the last two months, with six Chinese government ships sailing into the Japanese-controlled waters on 02NOV12 and four cruising into the same area on 04NOV12, according to the Japanese coastguard.)