U.S. spy drones likely to be deployed to western Japan air base

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Maritime Self-Defense Force Kanoya Air Base in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture

The U.S. military’s MQ-9 reconnaissance drones are being considered for deployment to a Maritime Self-Defense Force air base in Kagoshima Prefecture, several Japanese government sources said.

MSDF Kanoya Air Base is the likely location, with the aim of strengthening vigilance and surveillance regarding China, which has been aggressively expanding its maritime presence around the Nansei Islands, the Japanese island chain between Kyushu and Taiwan.

The U.S. military is looking to deploy seven or eight MQ-9s from this spring at the earliest, with about 100 U.S. personnel expected to be stationed at the air base to operate and maintain the drones.

The MQ-9 drone flies at an altitude of over 10,000 meters, is remotely operated from the ground and features enhanced surveillance capabilities.

During a Jan. 7 virtual meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee of the foreign and defense chiefs, the two countries signed a joint statement mentioning the necessity to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces’ posture in the Nansei Islands and jointly use facilities.

The Defense Ministry said it will soon explain the agreement to relevant local governments and hopes to gain their understanding.