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Japan and the U.S. Cooperate on Unmanned Combat Aircraft

Japan and the U.S. Cooperate on Unmanned Combat Aircraft

As Nikkei Asia reports, Japan will take part in the U.S. Collaborative Combat Aircraft programme. The program aims to develop AI-driven unmanned combat aircraft to accompany future sixth-generation fighter jets to be developed under the NGAD programme and legacy fighters.

Japan is already taking part in another sixth-generation fighter jet programme, the Global Combat Aircraft Programme (GCAP), jointly with the U.K. and Italy. GCAP also includes a similar concept where various types of UAVs will accompany the fighter.

Japan previously announced plans to develop an unmanned combat aircraft to act as loyal wingmen to manned aircraft in 2021, as reported by Nikkei Asia.

Liberal Democratic Party, one of the Japanese ruling coalition’s members, has pushed to provide Japan with permission to export the fighters to be developed under the GCAP programme to be exported to Asian countries to deter China in future.

Japan has been collaborating with the U.S. on different large-scale defence projects for the last two decades. The most well-known examples include the series of AEGIS combat system-equipped destroyers, SM-3 Block IIA anti-ballistic missiles providing extended reach, and the licensed production of PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles for Patriot air defence systems.

Following the changes to Japan’s weapons export policies, Japan approved the export of Patriot missiles to the U.S. towards the end of 2023.