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Japan Defense Ministry Releases Its 2015 Wish List

November 20, 2014

Japan P1 Patrol Aircraft

When its sovereignty over the Senkaku islands was disputed three years ago, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) realized it had to confront a belligerent neighbor sooner rather than later.

So it launched a plan to anticipate a clash with China in the coming years.

With the publication of Defense Programs and Budget of Japan – Overview of FY2015 Budget Request, the MOD is revealing its preparations for this likelihood.

Japan’s de facto military, the 220,000-strong Self Defense Forces (SDF), are well-equipped but have serious capability gaps.

In other words, the different branches don’t have the equipment and logistics for certain missions. Like defending a far away island from invasion, for example. Or deterring repeated violations of national airspace.

If the MOD gets its way, this is going to change by next year.

Fortifying Borders

Based on details published in Defense Programs and Budget, the SDF’s largest investment is for the Kawasaki P1 maritime patrol aircraft.

Th  Kawasaki P1 performs like the P-3 Orion and is well-suited for ISR. The ASDF wants 20 of them for $3.2 billion.

To maintain the ASDF’s cutting edge, the first batch of six F-35A Joint Strike Fighters arrive next year and an additional eight F-15J’s are being upgraded. A new air wing of two squadrons is being established as well to intercept Chinese military aircraft entering Japan.

To complement its airborne clout Japan’s navy is acquiring a single new Soryu-class submarine while the older Oyashi-class’ service lives are extended.

This means Japan’s submarine forces will grow from 16 to 22.

An additional Aegis-class destroyer is joining the surface fleet and Defense Programs and Budget suggests funding for unmanned helicopters launched from ships.

The MOD wants more than $350 million for its next-generation indigenous fighter jet progam, ballistic “carrier-killer” missiles, and rail guns on warships.

It’s believed these three initiatives combined should keep China’s naval clout at arm’s length.

Counter Strike

Most important is a $161 million investment for a marine brigade to launch amphibious operations. Although the number of tiltrotor craft and APCs have yet to be determined, Defense Programs and Budget stresses the need for an “amphibious operations related unit” to be assembled.

The make up of this unit is unknown. But a requirement for 4,217 Type 89 assault rifles by 2015 may or may not suggest its size.

Furthermore, Defense Programs and Budget list “foreign study” of amphibious assault ships being used as command centers among the MOD’s priorities.

Defense Programs and Budget reveals a small base is in the works on Yonaguni island. To defend air bases, batteries of medium-range Type 11 and long-range Type-03 SAMs are needed.

It’s interesting to note that on page 35 of Defense Programs and Budget “research on highly mobile powered suits” is mentioned as an R&D project.

Perspective

While the MOD’s aspirations are surprising, they’re still modest. Japan’s MOD are allocating its funds in a prudent matter in keeping with budget constraints.

“In view of the current fiscal austerity, practice efficient and rational spending in a way compatible with other national policies,” is the third and last “concept” enumerated in the report’s first page.

This is practical since Japan’s defense spending, which reached $56 billion in 2013, is less than half of China’s. And Japan’s politicians aren’t known for indulging the SDF.

To date, there isn’t a time table for when Japan’s marine strike force is operational. The status of its disputed islets is open-ended as well.

But conventional wisdom dictates that when potential war exists, governments should be ready to fight it.

Japan is near almost ready.

 

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