Anti-terror missions for Japan’s MSDF?

Possible re-tasking to confront terror threats.

Anti-terror missions could be on horizon for MSDF’s Djibouti detachment

DJIBOUTI – A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft takes off from an anti-piracy operations base here in east Africa, and heads out for its patrol area over the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. When a ship is spotted, the plane swoops down to an altitude of 1,000 meters so the crew can take digital photos.

The photos are transferred to a computer, blown up and analyzed to see if the ship is armed or if it’s been taken over by pirates. The Orion crew also confirms the vessel’s name and registration, and the results are sent to warships of the many nations patrolling the area, as well as commercial shipping vessels.

In the waters around Japan, the Orion can descend to just 150 meters above the sea to get a good look at whatever is below them. Here, however, the pirates can be armed with automatic weapons or rocket-propelled grenades, and the flight crew must keep above a certain altitude to stay out of range. The Orions are not the only Japanese assets in the anti-pirate coalition. There are two Japanese escort vessels with on-board reconnaissance helicopters, and Japan is part of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces ‘CTF-151 counter-piracy task force, joining the United States, Australia and other countries.

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