Monday, November 05, 2012

Japan developing ballistic missile-tracking drone

Visitors at a rocket launch site in North Korea
Targeting ballistic missiles during the boost phase has several advantages, and unmanned aerial vehicles could be well-suited to accomplish that task 

When back in April North Korea launched what the international community claimed was a ballistic missile, the country that had the most to fear from the launch — Japan — failed to track it, raising anxiety in Tokyo that its defenses against a missile attack by Pyongyang were insufficient

Ironically, the reason why Japan’s ground radars and Aegis destroyers, backed by U.S. early-warning surveillance satellites, were unable to track the launch is because the launch was a failure: the object, which Pyongyang all along maintained was an orbiter, never reached high enough an altitude to allow for its detection.

What came as an embarrassing failure for the North Korean regime served as a reminder to Tokyo that more was needed to ensure it had the ability to detect low-altitude objects as well as missile launches in their early phase. To address this shortcoming, the Japanese Defense Ministry has reportedly embarked on a multibillion-Yen program to develop unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with ultrasensitive infrared sensors to track ballistic (and possibly cruise) missiles as well as other low-altitude objects. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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