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SECURITY > Self-Defense Forces

Japan to develop unmanned aircraft to aid F-2 successor

  • August 11, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 7:12 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Aug. 11 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to develop artificial intelligence-equipped unmanned aircraft that will support the operations of the successor to the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jets, informed sources said Wednesday.


The ministry will seek related funds under the government’s fiscal 2022 budget, aiming to speed up discussions on establishing AI-driven autonomous flight technology for the unmanned aircraft, the sources said. It hopes to put the unmanned aircraft into practical use around 2035, timed to coincide with the introduction of the next-generation fighter jet model.


The unmanned aircraft will support the fighter jets while flying away from them. Specifically, the ministry expects that the aircraft will be used to detect enemy fighters and missiles early, launch missiles, conduct electronic attacks and act as a decoy for enemy missiles.


Unmanned planes can be deployed to dangerous airspace because there will be no human damage even if they are shot down.


The ministry has already established a technology to allow unmanned aircraft to take off and land automatically, and to communicate with the ground. But autonomous flight requires far more advanced AI technology.


In fiscal 2022, which starts next April, the ministry will conduct research on what functions should be introduced for the envisioned aircraft.


Meanwhile, there are ethical problems with AI-backed defense equipment launching attacks without human decisions, and this issue is being discussed internationally.


“It would be difficult for the Japanese government to allow (autonomously operated) machines to kill or injure” people, a senior ministry official said. The ministry apparently plans to require human decisions for missile firing and other attacks by the unmanned aircraft.

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