The US is set to deploy two Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton drones at Misawa airbase in Japan’s Aomori prefecture for five months, the first drone was put into service earlier in the day, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday.
According to the agency, the Japanese Defense Ministry believes that the temporary deployment of a long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance will boost security by enhancing the country’s ability to monitor activities in Japan’s and surrounding waters.
The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton can stay in the air for up to 30 hours and climb to an altitude of 17,000 meters (10.5 miles), which will allow Japan to monitor vast sea areas.
According to Northrop Grumman, MQ-4C Triton provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions.
Triton’s autonomous operations are backed by land-based command and control mission planners and sensor operators. Triton will be equipped with a unique and robust mission sensor suite that provides 360-degree coverage on all sensors, providing unprecedented maritime domain awareness for the U.S. Navy.
Triton also incorporates a reinforced airframe, for increased internal payload, and wing for hail, bird strike, and gust load protection, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These features allow the aircraft to descend and ascend through harsh maritime weather environments to gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea when needed.
Built for the U.S. Navy, Triton will support a wide range of missions including maritime ISR patrol, signals intelligence, search and rescue and communications relay. The aircraft can fly over 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
In recent years, Japan has been particularly concerned about China’s activity near the disputed Senkaku Islands (known in mainland China as the Diaoyu Islands), and regular entry by Chinese patrol ships into Japan’s territorial waters.