U.S. Drones to Move to Okinawan Air Base; Strengthening Warning and Surveillance Activities

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
U.S. forces’ Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture

All eight U.S. MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance currently deployed at the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kanoya Air Base in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, will be relocated to U.S. Forces’ Kadena Air Base, in the town of Kadena and surroundings in Okinawa Prefecture, in November, it has been learned.

After the relocation, the MQ-9 UAVs will be used to strengthen U.S. forces’ warning and surveillance activities regarding the increasingly active Chinese military around the Nansei Islands and Taiwan.

The Defense Ministry explained the relocation on Friday to the Okinawa prefectural government and concerned municipalities in the prefecture — Okinawa City, Chatan Town and Kadena Town.

An MQ-9 is about 11 meters long and 20 meters wide. The UAVs are equipped with sophisticated radars and sensors.

U.S. Forces in Japan deployed the UAVs to Kanoya Air Base for a planned one-year period in November last year, and the UAVs have since been conducting warning and surveillance missions, mainly over the East China Sea.

According to the Defense Ministry, about 100 additional U.S. soldiers will be formally stationed in Kadena Air Base in order to operate the UAVs.

At a meeting of Japanese and U.S. defense chiefs in the United States on Wednesday, they shared the view that the MQ-9 UAVs “play a significant role” in strengthening intelligence and surveillance capabilities.