The Japanese government has given the go-ahead to build a homegrown combat drone to be deployed by 2035, Tokyo-based daily Nikkei reported.
The unmanned aerial system (UAS) will be developed in three stages, the outlet reported citing government sources.
In the first stage, the aircraft will operate via remote control.
In the second, a swarm of drones will fly in coordination with manned aircraft, being controlled by the latter. This function is designed to help the country’s military send unmanned aircraft into enemy territory to gather intelligence or for offensive purposes without risking the pilot’s life.
In the final stage, the drone will operate completely autonomously.
Prototype to Fly by 2024
Japan’s ministry of defense has already tasked its Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency to develop the vehicle’s artificial intelligence (AI) while Japanese multinational firm, Subaru Corporation, has been assigned to develop the aircraft’s remote and flight control systems.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric will develop a system for the drone to allow immediate information-sharing among multiple aircraft.
There are chances of foreign defense manufacturers teaming up with the private companies on the project, Nikkei predicted.
The ministry has earmarked 2.5 billion yen ($24.3 million) for remote and flight control technology while 200 million yen ($1.9 million) will be invested in AI.
The first prototype flight test is expected to take place in 2024.
Indigenous Manned Aircraft
The planned deployment of an unspecified number of the UAS coincides with the deployment of Japan’s next-generation manned aircraft.
Tokyo is planning to build 90 aircraft to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 by 2035 at a cost of $45 billion, Nikkei reported last month.