Amid tensions between Beijing and Tokyo, Japan, on October 15, began test flights of an unmanned aerial vehicle SeaGuardian in a bid to learn whether it can carry out key duties, including search, recuse and maritime surveillance. According to NHK World, the US Defense firm General Atomics developed the 12-meter-long drone which has a wingspan of 24 metres. Japan Coast Guard started testing the aircraft which can fly for over 24 hours and can cover the furthest reaches of the country’s exclusive economic zone in a single flight.
SeaGuardian will be based at the Maritime Self-Defence Force’s base in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. As per ANI reports, the flights will be conducted off the coast of Sanriku in northeastern Japan, as well as along the coast of the Sea of Japan. The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) will either engage in pre-programmed flights or be remotely piloted from a ground control station.
The aircraft is equipped with radars and a high-definition camera. The Japanese Coast Guard is checking the safety of the aircraft and whether it can send real-time images and data to ground stations. Currently, the UAV conducts search and rescue as well as maritime surveillance with 33 aircraft and 52 helicopters. As per reports, the validation flights are scheduled to take place till November 10 at a cost of over 8.5 million dollars.
The testing of the unmanned aircraft comes a day after Japan unveiled a new submarine with an aim to boost the country’s maritime security in the East China Sea. Earlier this week, the Japanese government said that two Chinese ships have entered the territorial waters off disputed Senkaku islands and have remained there for the past 57 hours, the longest ever intrusion by the Chinese side in the past eight years. The last time Chinese vessels stayed there for this long was in 2012 when the Japanese government had bought some portion of lands in the Senkakus from a private owner.
As per the report, Japan deployed patrol boats in the area and continuously asked the vessels to move from the Japanese territorial waters but in vain. According to Japan Coast Guards, there were three Chinese ships in total but only two of them entered Japanese territorial waters. The incident happened shortly before 11 am (local time) on October 11, following which the Coast Guards immediately asked the vessels to return back. China has reportedly made 18 incursions into the Japanese waters this year.