Japan to Use Homemade Spy Planes?

TOKYO, July 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Japan is considering to produce two prototype high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned reconnaissance aircraft by fiscal 2012 at a total cost of 22 billion yen (about 200 million US dollars), Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

The move is likely to stir debate over whether it is appropriate to pour in large sums of taxpayers' money to develop planes that would be inferior to existing US aircraft and that would require even further investment to be practical, Kyodo said.

Japan began fundamental technological research in fiscal 2003 on unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. It has spent 2.4 billion yen (21.8 million dollars) on the research so far, but concluded that it would take a long time for the envisioned plane to be developedfor practical use.

According to Kyodo, the Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono has indicated that he would consider choosing the less expensive option of introducing the US aircraft, saying, "We would like to compare the costs of purchasing the planes from other countries and manufacturing them domestically."

The agency is apparently hoping that through developing the unmanned reconnaissance plane domestically, Japan could acquire technology that would be applicable to other kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles and close the gap between Japan and the United States in information gathering capabilities, the experts said. Enditem

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