By Yoshitaka Ito and Daizo Teramoto, staff writers
The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) air squadron deployed for surveillance operations in the Middle East has been unable to rotate out of the area due to the prolonged coronavirus pandemic. As a result of successful negotiations with the Djibouti government, which hosts the base, the replacement unit will likely be deployed around mid-June and a changeover will take place in early July, according to sources familiar with the matter.
According to government sources, the replacement unit, composed of about 60 SDF members, will leave for Djibouti on a chartered plane around mid-June. The switch will take place in early July, after the incoming unit completes a two-week quarantine. The current unit will fly back to Japan on a chartered plane and spend two weeks in quarantine before going back to their homes. They will have spent six months on duty since leaving Japan in early January.
The SDF’s P-3C air squadron performs the double duty of aerial surveillance over waters in the Middle East and anti-pirate operations in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. In a normal times before the pandemic, units were deployed on a three-month rotation.