Japan To Surge $6.8 Billion In Extra Military Spending Due To China, Taiwan, North Korea — And Covid – Forbes
Soldiers from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force set up PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launch systems … [+]
Last Sunday, the Japanese cabinet approved an unprecedented 773.8 billion yen (roughly $6.8 billion) in additional military spending requested by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, far exceeding prior defense spending supplements. That may boost Japan’s baseline 2021 defense budget of around 5.34 trillion yen ($47 billion) to the equivalent of $53.8 billion, increasing defense spending to account for 1.3% of Japanese GDP.
In reality, the current surge mostly hastens deployment of troops and technologies already scheduled in 2022-2024—a bid to rapidly upgrade forces while ginning up economic activity in a Covid-wracked economy.
Nonetheless, Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party has vowed to eventually boost that up to 2% GDP at the same time as Tokyo is more openly backing Taiwan than before. Taiwan, which lies only 60 miles away from the Japanese archipelago’s southwestern tip, is under increasing pressure from China, including the threat of possible invasion if it refuses reunification.
Here are the various ways the surge in defense spending addresses a variety of growing concerns for Tokyo—economic, political and security-related.
(428.7 billion yen, or $3.78 billion)
It’s no secret that alongside the Covid pandemic’s awful human cost, it has left economic volatility and devastation in its wake—with Japan’s economy contracting by 29%. So just over half of the $6.8 billion surge is going towards early payment for things the Japanese government already was planning on buying over the next few years. (That sum includes some items detailed later in this article.)
Early payment may get some of those technologies and capabilities deployed sooner and save on overall costs by avoiding interest payments. But more importantly, it’s meant to give Japanese industry a shot in the arm now, when it needs it, rather than say next year, when one can only hope the pandemic’s impact will be contained.
(97.8 billion yen, or $861 million)
Military vehicles carrying DF-15B ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen … [+]
Should war ever reignite on the Korean peninsula, U.S. military bases on Japanese soil would surely contribute to the military effort against North Korea. Pyongyang would likely retaliate by launching short and medium-range ballistic missiles at targets in Japan — and possibly nuclear-armed cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles too.
Tokyo doesn’t want either conventional or nuclear-armed missiles striking Japanese soil, so it’s trying to flesh out an integrated multi-layer missile defense capability. To defend against faster, higher-flying missiles, Tokyo is relying on U.S.-built SM-3 Block II missiles, though earlier plans to deploy batteries on land have been superseded by a new program to mount them on unique missile defense ships.
China too has an exceptionally large inventory of cruise missiles and short to medium-range ballistic missiles that can hit targets across Japan. Chinese and Russian military aircraft have also patrolled more frequently near Japanese airspace, increasingly overwhelming Japanese fighters expected to intercept them. Thus, improvements to ground-based air defense address a multitude of threats beyond North Korea-related concerns.
Patriot Missile Deployment (44.1 billion yen, or $389 million)
While Japan builds additional SM-3 armed ships, Tokyo wants to thicken its shorter-range missile defenses that provide terminal defense of a limited area—and that’s manifest by speeding up procurement of improved U.S.-built PAC-3 MSE air defense missiles specifically enhanced to intercept ballistic missiles raining down in a 15-22 mile radius.
New Domestic Surface-to-Air Missiles (12.9 billion yen)
YUFU, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 07: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) personnel prepare to lunch next … [+]
But the budget surge also allocates $22 million on accelerating fielding of two squadrons of improved domestic Type 03 Chu-SAM KAI medium-range surface-to-air missiles, with better capabilities against maneuverable quasi-ballistic and cruise missile threats using improved sensor networking and an additional gallium-nitride radar attached to each battery.
The surge also allocates 10.3 billion yen ($91 million) to develop an obscure short-range cruise-missile interceptor called KBSAM to protect against cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles.
Vertical Missile Launch Systems for Two New Frigates (8.4 billion yen, or $74 million)
As I wrote earlier in March this year, Japan’s new Mogami-class (or 30FFM) frigates are impressively well armed and on-budget compared to U.S. littoral combat ships—save for one key omission: they were launched without their 16 planned Mark 41 vertical launch systems which could provide medium-range air defense against hostile aircraft and missiles. Apparently, that deferred expense is finally being taken on for at least two Mogamis.
(FILES) South Korean marine corps search a North Korean combat-class submarine after its discovery … [+]
Japan is in a uniquely crowded neighborhood when it comes to potential undersea adversaries: China and North Korea each operate 60-70 or submarines, and Russia’s Pacific Fleet operates another 20 or so. Now, these threats are by no means equal: North Korea’s submarines are mostly tiny short-range submarines, while China and Russia operate mixed fleets of larger diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines. But that’s still a lot of potential adversaries operating nearby, and Tokyo is scaling up its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities accordingly.
3 P-1 Patrol Planes, 3 Months Early
(65.8 billion yen, or about $580 million)
YAMATO, JAPAN – 2018/12/19: A Kawasaki P1 Maritime patrol aircraft with the Japanese Maritime Self … [+]
The four-engine P-1 patrol plane is Japan’s gold-plated sub-hunter aircraft anointed to succeed its aging fleet of P-3C aircraft. Compared to the twin-engine P-8 Neptune patrol plane operated by the U.S. Navy, the P-1 can transit faster, carry more weapons, and is more effective at low-altitude sub-hunting. Japanese officials told Aviation Week its P-1s were “routinely detecting submarines at longer ranges than was possible with the P-3 from both medium and low altitudes.” The P-1s, ordered three months early, will be accompanied by two spare turbofan engines worth $16.7 million.
(21.7 billion yen, or about $192 million)
Japan is also procuring a variety of additional anti-submarine weapons. That includes Type 12 light-weight torpedoes better optimized for engaging submarines in the shallow coastal water, where North Korean mini-subs are particularly difficult to detect. These 324-millimeter torpedoes can outfit P-1 and P-3 patrol planes, SH-60K helicopters and anti-submarine capable warships.
Japan is also seeking to accelerate deployment of a replacements for its Type 89 heavy-weight torpedo used by its submarines to engage both surface and undersea targets. The new Type 18 will also boost better shallow-water and target-identification abilities thanks to an acoustic imaging sensor.
Lastly, the surge includes funding for additional supersonic Type 07 anti-submarine rockets, which can be fired from the Mark 41 vertical launch systems on Japanese warships.
Tokyo has outstanding territorial disputes with Beijing and Moscow regarding its sovereignty over far-flung islands—and the tiff with the latter over the disputed Senkakku/Diaoyu islands have grown more worrying due to the rapid expansion of the PLA Navy and rising nationalist sentiments. However, actually defending these remote islands poses significant logistical and operational challenges, the overcoming of which have been of prime concern to Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force in the last decade.
13 Subaru-Bell UH-2 Utility Helicopters
(25.4 billion yen or $224.4 million)
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force plans to acquire up to 150 Subaru-Bell UH-2 helicopters, derived from twin-engine Bell 412 already license-built in Japan, to replace its fleet of 127 UH-1J utility choppers. The UH-2 can carry up to 13 personnel which it can deploy by parachute or repelling cables.
It’s also fit for ship-board operations and can be transported by cargo planes, and also has self-defense systems to protect against hostile fire. Those are all important capabilities if Japan ever has to deploy troops by air to defend, or take back, its far-flung islands. The UH-2s also can serve in a search-and-rescue (SAR) and disaster relief role, and are fitted with full infrared-sensors and high-resolution video recording and transmission capabilities.
Paratroopers of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force 1st Airborne Brigade jump from a Kawasaki C-2 … [+]
The JASDF meanwhile will procure an additional Kawasaki C-2 cargo jet for 24.3 billion yen ($214 million), as well as two spare turbofan engines for 8.1 billion yen ($71.6 million). These pricey short-takeoff-and landing transports are intended to play an important role ferrying infantry and light armored vehicles to defend remote islands.
Faster Deployment of Missiles Close to Taiwan
(4.1 billlion yen, or $36 million)
A Japanese Self-Defense Force Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptor launcher is deployed … [+]
Tokyo is accelerating plans to deploy 570 troops to Ishigaki island—located only 135 miles east of Taiwan. The contingent will include PAC-3 air defense and Type 12 anti-ship missile batteries, as well as a defensive garrison. Japan also has surveillance radars on Yonaguni island, under 70 miles east of Taiwan.
Given Tokyo’s recent statements in support of Taiwan, it seems likely Japan will share radar data with Taiwan as Chinese bombers increasingly circumnavigate the island. And if Japan ever came to Taiwan’s defense in a war, the batteries at Ishigaki could interdict hostile air or sea forces circling around to assail the island from an eastern vector.
The Type 12 missile in its current form has a range of 124 miles, though the JSGDF could potentially field a 250-mile range missile used by the Navy, or even a stealthy 560-mile range variant under development.
(166.6 billion yen, or $1.47 billion)
In this aerial image shows a landfill work preparing the area for the relocation of the U.S. Marine … [+]
Japan still sees the U.S. military playing a fundamental role in assuring Japanese security—an arrangement which suits the Pentagon, as its posture in East Asia depends heavily on bases on Japanese soil. But the financial and environmental costs of maintaining that alliance sometimes run afoul of both U.S. and Japanese domestic politics.
Perhaps seeking to steady the ship after the rocky Trump era, the budget supplement includes an extra 80.1 billion yen to hasten construction of a new air station at Henoko on the Okinawan island of Nago for the U.S. Marine Corps, plus an additional 86.5 billion yen to pay for the Marines relocating out of the existing base at Futenma.
The move to the less-populated Henoko Bay area was intended to mitigate long-standing local objections to the U.S. base at Futenma. But construction of the Henoko base has also aroused extensive opposition from Okinawans which Tokyo seeks to override.
Updated 12:50 am EST on 11/01 with additional source links, clarifications, and adjustments to images and formatting.