The 319th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron launched its first flight of the MQ-9 REAPER from Japan today. The U.S. Air Force Squadron deployed the Group V UAS from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Kanoya Air Base (Kagoya City, Kagoshima Prefecture), after U.S. media confirmed the squadron had deployed to the base last week.
The 150-200 U.S. Airmen and support infrastructure will execute a temporary deployment to show the feasibility of such joint operations and provide ISR to the East China Sea, where an increasingly aggressive People’s Liberation Army Navy has been operating in the vicinity of Taiwan. This squadron will put on a public display for locals on November 5th and is expected to fly from this base for a year with (8) MQ-9s.
This deployment highlights how the U.S. must close the spatial gap between bases in Guam, Australia, and Hawaii in order to create a potent enough airborne ISR posture in a China-U.S. fight. This gap in capability due to long ferrying ranges was highlighted by this publication in July.