Japan to Develop Unmanned Autonomous Fighter Jets 

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Japan is on track to develop fully autonomous fighter jets that will be deployed as early as 2035. The move is seen as an attempt to counter China’s rapid military modernization streak. North Korea is also a major adversary.

Japan hopes to bolster its defenses using relatively little manpower by allowing one pilot to control multiple drones, and having the jets share information with each other. The drones could also gather data in dangerous areas without risking the lives of Japanese self-defense personnel.

Tokyo is aiming to finish the research on the unmanned autonomous drone by 2024 by conducting a flight test with a small prototype and begin designing it by 2025. The final fighter drones could be equipped with detection and missile capabilities.

Japan’s Defense Ministry will begin to introduce unmanned fighter jets in three stages – first deploying the remote-controlled drone, followed by one piloted aircraft controlling a swarm of UAVs, and third, the fully autonomous and unmanned ones, Nikkei Asia said in a report.

The report further said that the ministry plans to introduce fully autonomous drones by 2035 along with the deployment of F-X fighter jets that are meant to replace Japan’s aging fleet of F-2 fighters over the course of 2030-40. 

Japanese companies including Subaru, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Mitsubishi Electric are already working on the technology for the unmanned fighter. The project is expected to cost about 2.5 billion yen ($24.3 million) for remote and flight control technology, and another 200 million yen into artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the report pointed out.

According to eurasiantimes.com, the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) will maintain unmanned aerial vehicle units in order to conduct information collection in areas relatively remote from Japan and for persistent airborne monitoring during situations with heightened tensions.