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International relations

US Navy deploys anti-stealth reconnaissance aircraft to Japan

Move is seen aimed at countering advanced Chinese and Russian fighter jets

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A U.S. Navy Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye prepares to land on the runway of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington, during a tour of the ship in the South China Sea in 2013.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- In a move seen aimed at countering Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft, the U.S. Navy announced on Thursday that it will deploy to Japan its newest airborne early warning and control aircraft, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

Equipped with state-of-the-art radar, the Hawkeye will act as the eyes and ears of U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group Five, centered around Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. CSG5 is the only U.S. forward-based carrier strike group home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan.

The Hawkeye and the squadron that flies it, VAW 125, will move from Norfolk, Virginia, to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in February. The squadron will join the Reagan when the carrier is on a mission.

"These moves are in accordance with the Navy's strategic vision for the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, a plan to put the most advanced and capable units forward in order to support the United States' commitment to the defense of Japan and the security and stability of the region," the Navy said in a statement.

The central feature of the Hawkeye is its Lockheed Martin AN/APY-9 UHF-band radar. It is said to able to detect fifth-generation stealth aircraft, including China's Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31, Russia's Sukhoi PAK-FA and the U.S.'s own F-22 Raptor and F -35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Navy also announced it will begin a phased relocation of Carrier Air Wing 5's fixed-wing aircraft, the Reagan's carrier based fighters, from Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, to Iwakuni beginning in the second half of 2017.

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