The Northrup Grumman Global Hawk drone in flight Northrup Grumman

The Northrup Grumman Global Hawk drone in flight. Japan is closing in on acquiring three, which would significantly enhance the country’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

AEROSPACE ROUNDUP: US Approves Drone Sale to Japan

In other news, The Philippines returns to the fighter jet game for the first time in a decade, bringing in a pair of FA-50s from South Korea.

The United States approved the sale of three Global Hawk surveillance drones to Japan during the holiday weekend, as Tokyo revamps its military in response to Chinese maritime ambitions.

Unless Congress intervenes within a month to halt the $1.2 billion deal, U.S. defense giant Northrop Grumman will supply the pilotless aircraft and their sensor array. The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the sale of the RQ-4 drone, already in wide use with U.S. forces, would not tip the military balance in the region, but it would allow a major US ally to better patrol its skies.

“The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will significantly enhance Japan’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and help ensure that Japan is able to continue to monitor and deter regional threats,” it said.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan is building up its Self Defense Forces to counterbalance a rising China and better play its role as a United States ally. The country has been officially pacifist since its World War II military defeat, and it was only in September that Tokyo passed a law allowing its troops to fight abroad.

Many in Japan are uneasy at the change, but Abe’s government reinforced its tougher stance by publicly backing a U.S. decision to sail its warships though disputed waters in the South China Sea.

FIGHTER JETS IN THE PHILIPPINES: CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines — The Philippines took delivery of two South Korean-made FA-50 aircraft on Saturday, marking the country’s return to supersonic fighter jet status after almost a decade, amid growing tensions with China.

The two new aircraft are the first of an order of 12 and signal a new readiness by Manila to assert itself militarily. The two fighters, flown from Seoul by South Korean pilots, were met in Philippine airspace by two S211 jets which escorted them to the former U.S. airbase of Clark where they were received by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Gazmin has said the aircraft could serve as both trainers and fighters, and that among the areas they would be posted will be the western island of Palawan, the country’s closest point to the South China Sea where the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China.

China claims most of the South China Sea even up to the coastline of its neighbors. Other countries have conflicting claims and the Philippines has been the most vocal in opposing China despite its overwhelming military superiority.

The cash-strapped Philippines retired the last of its supersonic fighter jets, US-made F-5 Freedom Fighters, in 2005 due to their age and since then has relied on propeller-driven planes and the Italian-made S211. The S211s are intended for training new pilots and are not capable of supersonic flight. But the military has been forced to use them for other roles such as patrolling territory and conducting bombing missions on insurgents.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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