On October 13, Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, greeted the first of several USAF-operated MQ-9A Reaper unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) that are scheduled to deploy to the base, which is also referred to as the ‘Keystone of the Pacific’.
The MQ-9A that deployed to Kadena was assigned to the 319th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron (ERS) – which is home-based at Creech AFB in Nevada – and was previously operating from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima, Japan. This deployment to Kadena intends to strengthen regional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities in pursuit of maintaining what the US refers to as “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Images of the Reaper arriving at Kadena showed the UCAV carrying both an L3Harris-developed Scalable Open Architecture Reconnaissance (SOAR) signals intelligence (SIGINT) pod and an Ultra Electronics-made Rosetta Echo Advanced Payload (REAP) data-sharing/communications gateway pod.
Commenting on the aircraft’s arrival at Kadena, Lt Col Jordan Smith – commander of the 319th ERS – said: “Staging the MQ-9 from Kadena will expand our ability to build a more detailed, real-time operating picture to help protect a rules-based international order, enabling a prosperous Indo-Pacific.”