Japan's defense chief calls for 'active use' of combat drones

Nobuo Kishi looks to align Tokyo and Washington's national security priorities

Nikkei -- May 04
As unmanned aerial vehicles prove a critical tool in Ukraine's resistance to the Russian invasion, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has signaled a growing interest in applications for combat drones.

"We will steadily deploy and actively utilize drones as necessary," Kishi said in a written interview with Nikkei. He outlined plans to coordinate more closely with the U.S. on security strategies, to pave the way for improved cooperation in cyberdefense and other emerging national security concerns.

Japan has adopted the RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance drone but largely shied away from combat drones. It set aside just 30 million yen ($231,000) for research into the devices in its fiscal 2022 budget.

But drones are a relatively convenient and cheap option compared with fighter jets and tanks, and they can be used in areas too risky for traditional piloted aircraft. At least 40 countries around the world are believed to have deployed combat drones or to have plans to.

Drones have also played a major role in Ukraine's resistance, providing surveillance and attacking Russian tanks, ammunition depots and fuel storage facilities. They reportedly played a role in Javelin antitank missile strikes as well.