Japan shortlists ‘Ukraine-tested’ combat drones that have wreaked havoc on Russian military positions

Following the outstanding performance of armed drones in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Japan is reportedly considering purchasing Bayraktar drones and Switchblades to gain a combat advantage.

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Tokyo closely followed Ukraine’s counter-offensive with drones to fight the Russian army. The country’s Ministry of Defense wants to deploy unmanned vehicles which are not just for surveillance and intelligence gathering but can also be used in actual warfare.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun’s latest report on Wednesday says the nation will purchase combat drones in the next fiscal year, which begins April 1, 2023.

By early 2025, it will purchase several hundred imported or domestically manufactured military drones. The drones will mainly be deployed to protect the southern Ryukyu Islands, also known as the Nansei Islands, which are closest to China.

Japan believes that the rapid acquisition and deployment of such drones is key to gaining the upper hand in combat while reducing casualties.

The report said the country would buy Israeli Harop and American Switchblade vagrancy ammunition, with Turkish Bayraktar drones being explored as one of the possible options. However, a decision on the purchase will be made after the tests.

File Image: A Ukrainian TB2 drone, armed with precision-guided weapons.

The obligation to equip and develop combat drones will be included in the national defense strategy by the end of the year. This has also been stated in the country’s Defense Ministry draft budget for the fiscal year 2023.

Japan’s Defense Ministry has requested a record 5.5 trillion yen ($41 billion) for the upcoming fiscal year. However, this figure is not definitive. Total defense spending for fiscal year 2023 would reach up to 6.5 trillion yen.

Successful Bayraktar and Switchblades drones

The Turkish-made drone has received international attention for its battlefield performance. Videos of the armed Bayraktar TB2 destroying Russian tanks, armored vehicles and surface-to-air missile defense systems have been widely posted on social media, similar to what happened in Azerbaijan, Syria and Syria. Libya.

Baykar Defense, one of Turkey’s leading drone manufacturers, has tried to sell its armed drones to Asian countries, especially Japan.

Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar Defense, told Nikkei Asia that his company offered a better option for Asian countries, predicting Chinese drone exports to the region would be limited.

The company is promoting its new generation TB-3 drone in particular. The TB-3 drone, currently being developed by Baykar, can take off and land from aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, commonly known as helicopter landing docks (LHDs).

Another Turkey-based defense company, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), is looking for prospects to market its drones in the region. The Aksungur, a next-generation armed drone from TAI, can fly for 50 hours and has sonobuoy capabilities.

It was added to the inventory of the Turkish army in 2021. Equipped with sophisticated detectors and sensors, it can carry out anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance operations, which is very suitable for countries of the Indo-Pacific.

On the other hand, Switchblade drones have become famous thanks to a series of victories recorded by the Ukrainian army and shared on social media platforms. Even China and Russia are known to develop their versions of the Switchblade drone.

Last month, the EurAsian Times reported that Russia claimed to have created a drone twice as powerful as the US-built Switchblade. A technical sheet made available to the media suggests that the Russian LAOP-500 drone can stay in the air for up to 20 minutes and fire at targets up to five kilometers away.

Meanwhile, Beijing recently unveiled its version of the US Switchblade drones during live-fire exercises.

Switchblade 300 roving ammo. (via Twitter)

The success of the Switchblade drone in Ukraine has encouraged American partners and friends to procure it. The French army had recently begun the process of acquiring vagrant ammunition. The Switchblade is part of the French military’s ongoing efforts to produce remote-controlled weapon systems.

These drones could be a major game-changer for the Japanese military. As tensions in the Taiwan Strait rise, Japan, a key regional power, is exploring its options to fend off China’s sophisticated weaponry.

Dr. Matthew J Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven, Noted that “Ukraine is a showcase for future war. It’s a classroom for the tactics you’d see now in Taiwan and a decade elsewhere.

Overall, if Tokyo chooses to purchase these drones, it will bolster its vital counteroffensive capabilities and provide a strategic advantage in any confrontation.

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