Japan wants to develop unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to deter adversaries from landing on the Nansei Islands, as well as to lay and sweep mines.
This plan was revealed by an unnamed source to local news agencies on Monday. It is expected to be articulated in the National Security Strategy and two other key defense documents slated to be revised by the end of this year.
Japan’s defense ministry is already producing an underwater drone that can detect mines while avoiding obstacles autonomously. The ministry’s weapons procurement arm, the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA), expects to start research and development at an early date on a model that can lay and remove mines.
Nansei Island chain stretches southwest from Kagoshima Prefecture to Okinawa Prefecture. The islet group includes the Japanese-controlled, Beijing-claimed Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu, in the East China Sea.
Currently, Self-Defense Force (SDF) vessels and planes are used to lay mines, but such mines could be removed if adversaries track the vessels and planes via satellite and other means to estimate where they laid the mines.
With underwater drones, the government hopes the SDF will be able to lay mines without running such risks while at the same time making it difficult for adversaries to contemplate invasion using vessels and submarines.
The source told news outlets that the planned UUVs will allow the SDF to lay and sweep mines even when there is a blockade.