The U.S. Navy Has Shown Off Its Latest Patrol Aircraft Deployed In Japan


The Navy displayed the P-8 aircraft to reporters at its Atsugi base near Tokyo on Wednesday. They emphasized the policy to strengthen its system to collect military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region, having China, which has been accelerating its naval expansion, in mind.

The aircraft is capable of tracking submarines. The U.S. has deployed 6 of them to Japan – the first deployment outside the U.S. They arrived at the Kadena air base in Okinawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan, last month.

The P-8 has high surveillance capability. The new jet engine aircraft can reach its destination quicker than its predecessor, the propeller-driven P-3C. The P-8 is equipped with a high-performance computer system to analyze submarine data quickly.

U.S. Navy is aiming to warn China, which has been accelerating its naval expansion, through various means such as reinforcing their number of submarines, by deploying P-8 to Japan for the first time outside the United States.

The commander of the Navy’s patrol and reconnaissance unit in Japan, Mike Parker said the United States intends to strengthen its system to collect military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region. He said the P-8 will be effective in detecting and tracking high-performance, quieter submarines.

High interoperability between Japan and U.S. is challenge

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and U.S. Navy currently operate P-3C aircraft to monitor submarines and vessels.

Japan and the U.S. have been conducting surveillance operations in the sea area surrounding Japan by the same type P-3C aircraft since the Cold War era, when they were trying to contain the former-Soviet Union’s submarine actions. It is said coordination between commands of Japan and the U.S. is extremely close.

Additionally, in recent years, a new facility for Japan and U.S. to share intelligence about submarines operating in the East China Sea, was established at U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture, having China, which has been activating its naval expansion, in mind.

Meanwhile, the JMSDF is planning to replace 75 of the P-3C aircraft they currently have with the domestically produced P-1 aircraft. Last year, the P-1 aircraft was deployed to Atsugi base for the first time.

The U.S. Navy has also started to deploy the most advanced P-8 aircraft to Japan. Will Japan and the U.S. be capable of sharing intelligence between different type of aircraft and strengthen surveillance capability in the future? Ensuring high interoperability is a challenge (for Japan and the U.S.).

Translated from Japanese by Mito Iinuma / CNFJ Public Affairs.

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