How Japan Fell in Love With America’s Drones

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

Japan is not so quietly building a huge drone fleet

The country will invest ¥3 billion (approx $372 million) in the coming decade to drastically expand its virtually non-existent military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program, according to a senior analyst at IHS Jane’s, the leading defense and security agency.

“For the period 2014-2023, our forecasts show that they [Japan] are looking to build three Global Hawk drones, in addition to missile detecting UAVs, to deter possible threats of nuclear attack from North Korea and the advancing military strength of China,” the analyst, who requested anonymity to speak candidly on issues related to agency clients, told Quartz. “ They [Japan] are progressing their indigenous design and development capability at a rapid pace and could actually meet their objectives even before fiscal year 2020.”

The forecast would represent a more than 300% increase in drones from current investment levels, which would make Japan’s the fastest growing UAV program in the world, said the analyst.

According to the country’s 2014 defense budget, the increased investments in UAVs are necessary to ” build defense capabilities to ensure security of the seas and airspace surrounding Japan, respond to an attack on remote islands”—a not so subtle reference to the disputed Senkaku Islands, or the Diaoyu as they are known in China. For prime minister Shinzo Abe, boosting investments in the nation’s self-defense forces has been central to his policy of resisting Chinese aggression in the region.

Japan changes constitution to grant military more power

A key long-term goal for Japan’s booming drone program is to use these military UAVs abroad to protect the country’s interests, said the IHS Jane’s senior analyst. However, until last month, this would have been illegal due to Article 9 of the nation’s pacifist constitution, which explicitly prohibits belligerence. Prime minister Abe clearly has a different agenda.

In June, Abe granted the nation’s self-defense forces more power when he gutted Article 9, the so-called “peace clause.” Through a cabinet decision, Abe re-interpreted the article to allow greater use of military force to defend other countries. In doing so, he bypassed parliament and the typical requirement for a referendum for any change to the constitution.

Full article: How Japan Fell in Love With America’s Drones (Defense One)

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