Lots of news today regarding Japanese confirmation of an operational UAV in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy. Blogger @JS_Susumu, from Surveillance to Go Nowhere, passed along this Sankei report from earlier in the day (June 23rd):

Confirmation of China’s UAV: Chinese Navy Training in the Pacific

Chinese naval UAV (top-right) spotted by the MSDF

Chinese naval UAV (top-right) spotted by the MSDF (Source: MoD)

Passing between Miyakojima and the main island of Okinawa, a Chinese naval fleet was sailing in the eastern Philippine Sea on a recent training operation when a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft spotted a unmanned aerial vehicle in the air, it was announced today. This is the first confirmed sighting of a Chinese UAV. The Chinese fleet has been on a two-week long voyage in the Pacific Ocean to practice its gunnery and other skills. Between the evening of the 22nd and early dawn of the 23rd, the fleet passed between Okinawa and Miyakojima sailing northwest believed on its return to base.

According to the Ministry of Defense, on June 8th and 9th, the Chinese fleet set sail into the East China Sea in a southeastern direction, split into three groups including missile destroyers and frigates. While heading towards the eastern Philippine Sea after its training, an MSDF aircraft on patrol at the time spotted a UAV flying in the vicinity of the fleet and took photographs for further confirmation. The UAV is believed to have taken off and landed on the deck of one of the vessels.

The Ministry of Defense released the photograph of the UAV, as shown above, with an accompanying statement:

On the Chinese Naval Fleet Movements

From June 22nd (Wed) to the 23rd (Thurs), the TAKANAMI, CHOUKAI, and KURAMA from MSDF Escort Flotilla 2 (based at Sasebo), sighted an 11-ship  Chinese naval fleet consisting of three Sovremenny-class destroyers, one Jiangkai II-class frigate, one Jiang-wei II frigate, two Jiang-wei I frigates, a Fuqing-class oiler, a Dajiang-class auxiliary submarine rescue vessel, a Tuzhong-class fleet tug, a Dongdiao-class electronic intelligence ship, in an area of sea approximately 110 km northeast of Miyakojima, heading northwest from the Pacific Ocean to the East China Sea.

In addition, from June 8th (Wed) to the 9th (Thurs), the fleet was spotted in an area of sea approximately 100 km northeast of Miyakojima, heading southeast from the Pacific Ocean to the East China Sea, after which it was confirmed to have engaged in gunnery practise in an area of sea approximately 450 km southwest of Okinotorishima as well as unmanned aerial vehicle and onboard helicopter flight training and seaborne replenishment.

Kyle Mizokami is following up on these translations with some further analysis and speculation: read more here.

[Special thanks and H/T to @JS_Susumu for all his translation help]

[UPDATE: Edited - translation refers to East Philippine Sea as if it were a name of a sea, but in fact it's just the eastern side. Thanks to the guys at MilitaryPhotos forum for pointing that out.]

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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