Another year, another Chinese training fleet sails by Miyakojima. Last year, you may remember, the Japanese patrol planes shadowing the Chinese training fleet caught a first glimpse of the fleet’s naval UAV. This year, no doubt prepared for its appearance, a MSDF P-3C Orion caught the UAV(s!) far more clearly, not only in the air but also on deck.

In a document dated May 15th, the Ministry of Defense writes that on May 14th between 23:00 and 00:00, two Chinese Type-054A Jiang-Kai II frigates and a Dongdiao Electronic Intelligence vessel were spotted by a a P-3C Orion of the MSDF Fleet Air Wing 5 (out of Naha, Okinawa). The Orion, attached to the Takanami (out of Yokosuka) of the 6th Fleet Escort Force and the Hamagiri (out of Osaka) of the 15th Fleet Escort Force, observed the three-ship fleet heading northwest into the East China Sea 110-km northeast of Miyakojima.

The three ships of the Chinese training fleet

The three ships of the Chinese training fleet (Source: MoD)

The fleet consisted of the Zhoushan FFG-529 and Xuzhou FFG-530 Jiang-Kai II vessels and the Dongdiao-class 851, which was recorded in last year’s Miyakojima run. The three-ship fleet was also observed at midday on April 29th 430-km west of Yakushima heading east into the Pacific Ocean.

Some 700-km east of Okinotorishima, they were observed conducting a UAV training flight, and it is those pictures we are most interested in. The vessel spotted carrying the UAVs was the Zhoushan, and the bottom picture clearly shows at least one rotary-wing UAV, with a possible two more slightly to the left. It is unclear if this possible count of three includes the UAV spotted during flight or not. It is also unclear whether the Xuzhou was also carrying UAVs aboard or not.

PLAN UAVs spotted by MSDF

PLAN UAVs spotted by MSDF (Source: MoD)

Perhaps we will be treated to an even better set of pictures later this year or next year.

[H/T Susumu at Surveillance to Go Nowhere]

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch