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Japan Joins The Arms Race

December 21, 2013

Japanese view

On December 13, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) published its wish list for the different Self-Defense Force branches and their costs. News agencies revealed Japan’s military had its sights on buying 17 V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, 52 amphibious vehicles, Global Hawk UAVs, and 28 F-35 fighter jets. But why does Japan want new weapons?

Since its relationship with China deteriorated in the last two years over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, the respective governments of either country are now preparing for a possible armed confrontation.

This month, the MOD published a 60-page document titled Defense Programs and Budget of Japan: Overview of FY2014 Budget Request. It’s a comprehensive list of what Japan’s 255,000-man Self-Defense Force (JSDF) needs to meet threats from China, North Korea, and the environment. The very first of the interim report’s eight “Main Points” was the improvement of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance). This was followed by an equipment list for  the SDF to “Respond to attack on remote islets.”

It must be noted that in the paper, the MOD highlighted its urgent priorities blue.

The Lowdown

For ISR, the JSDF need HALE-UAVs or long-range drones, an AWACS, four fixed wing patrol craft like the Kawasaki P-1, one destroyer for the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), one brand new Shoryu-class submarine, plus a rescue ship for disaster response.

Additionally, extending the service lives of the current aircraft and ship inventory is a must. An observation unit will also be sent to the far-flung Yonaguni Island. The second main point, titled “Respond to attacks on small islets,” suggests forming an Amphibious Preparatory Unit. Based on a scenario illustrated on the paper, US-made AAV-7’s would deliver Japanese marine forces from Osumi-class transports to beaches.

Since the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) don’t have sufficient amphibious vehicles, two AAVP-7’s are going to be acquired for testing. To bolster its fledgling marine firepower, the GSDF is shedding its tanks for 100 new 8×8 MCV‘s. Other acquisitions include a CH-47 transport helicopter, F-35’s, and engaging in “Research study for tiltrotor aircraft.” Ground-based missiles, sensors, and munitions were listed as well. The paper emphasized that because of fiscal austerity, efficient budgeting is a must.

There were separate entries for acquisitions of 12 60mm mortars and 51 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifles. The other main points were civil defense from terrorism, cyberspace, and responding to natural disasters. The US-Japan alliance, intelligence gathering, and satellite-based C4ISR came last.