Tensions have risen in recent weeks over China’s extensive land reclamation activity in the Spratlys. The U.S. hopes Japan will join its maritime air patrols over the disputed waters to check on what it sees as China’s expansionism.
Chiko Tsuneoka reports: Japan’s next-generation surveillance plane, officially unveiled earlier this week, will enable its military to conduct longer reconnaissance missions at a time when Tokyo is paying close attention to China’s growing presence in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The P-1, manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., is crammed full of high-performance sensor equipment and the latest data-processing systems to detect submarines and small vessels.
“Mobility to fly out to distant destination waters swiftly and operate for a long time while remaining in operational areas is necessary.”
The new plane, billed as the world’s first production aircraft to use fly-by-light fiber-optic cable technology, has a cruising speed of 830 kilometers an hour (515 mph), 30% faster than the P-3C patrol plane it will replace, and a range of 8,000 kilometers, an increase of more than 20%.
“Mobility to fly out to distant destination waters swiftly and operate for a long time while remaining in operational areas is necessary” for detecting submarines and other targets, said Cmdr. Jun Masuda of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s 511 Fight Unit during a presentation of the new jet at the MSDF’s Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.
The introduction of the P-1 comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is looking to pass security legislation to expand the scope of Japan’s military activities and bolster U.S.-Japan joint defense operations, partly in response to Beijing’s expanding military footprint in Asia. Read the rest of this entry »