The government plans to introduce about 20 large, unmanned helicopters to Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers and other ships, several government sources said.
In response to China’s maritime expansion, the government wants to strengthen its early warning and surveillance activities around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
The helicopter model is expected to be selected in fiscal 2022, with the procurement starting in fiscal 2023, the sources said.
Early warning and surveillance activities in the East China Sea are currently conducted using MSDF vessels, surveillance helicopters, P-3C surveillance planes and other equipment.
The unmanned helicopters would likely be deployed to Izumo- and Hyuga-class destroyers, as well as to a new destroyer with minesweeping capabilities.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout is considered the leading candidate. Made by Northrop Grumman Corp. of the United States, the 12.6-meter-long, 2.7-meter-wide unmanned helicopter can detect the movements of ships and other objects from an altitude of about 5,000 meters. (end of excerpt)
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