Japan Pushes Forward on Modernization, Upgrades
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Japan’s dramatic transformation in policy and organizational structure will have long-term effects on the military’s procurement choices. Much of the change has to do with U.S. pressure to modernize and renewed threats from North Korea that include nuclear and missile developments that have left the Japanese military unprepared.
“Investment in BMD [ballistic missile defense], C4ISR and the latest, greatest fighters are the weapons of the postindustrial and prosperous,” said Peter Woolley, author of “Geography and Japan’s Strategic Choices.”
“Such investment does not necessarily correlate directly to the threat environment,” Woolley said. “The exception here is Japan’s acquisition of BMD, which does correlate directly to the threat generated by Kim Jong-il’s regime.”
In December, the Diet, Japan’s legislature, passed a law that transformed the Japan Defense Agency into a formal ministry, giving the military powerful new influence over the way it procures weapons and reorganizes to meet new challenges.
Despite the ministry upgrade, the military’s budget shrank for the fifth year in a row. The 2007 budget, which will take effect April 1, is $41.57 billion, down $109 million from 2006. However, missile defense allocation will rise to $1.54 billion, up $360 million, or 30.5 percent, from 2006.
The rise reflects fears in Japan that North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapon development could result in an unexpected war. In 2005 and 2006, Japan purchased Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) air defense systems, retrofitted Aegis destroyers and upgraded EP-3 patrol aircraft, radar and other C4ISR facilities.
Woolley argues that Japan’s investment in C4ISR is a practical one.
“C4ISR is a modern reflection of the age-old prescription that good intelligence is the best defense and best offense. C4ISR upgrades are here to stay because they take advantage of the rapid advances in satellite technologies.”
Japan is restructuring its naval forces because of pressure from the United States, incursions from both Chinese and North Korean vessels, and increased responsibility supporting peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.
Woolley argues that the U.S. Navy is unable to provide the same support it did during the Cold War.
“Because the U.S. Navy does not necessarily have enough assets to cover Japan, it welcomes the help Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has been able to provide with its modern and modernizing fleet, most notably its Aegis-equipped platforms,” according to Woolley. “The large Aegis-equipped vessels also offer the perfect mobile and forward platform for BMD.”
That restructuring included plans announced last year to buy four new destroyers under the 5,000-ton 19DD program to replace older Hatsuyuki-class destroyers. The program will cost $717 million and be completed by 2015. However, no builder has been selected.
The Navy also plans to reduce escort divisions from 12 to eight, with the number of ships in each to increase from three to four. Two separate divisions will be created, a DDG group and a DDH that incorporates helicopter carriers making up 47 destroyers and 16 submarines.
The two new 13,500-ton 16DDH helicopter destroyers are scheduled for commissioning in 2009 and 2010, with a potential total of seven being considered. The IHI Marine United-built ships will carry up to a dozen helicopters. They will replace the Haruna-class destroyers and help support Japan’s increasing peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in other parts of Asia.
The first ship in the DDG Atago-class (Improved Kongo) is being fitted out this year, and a second has been ordered, with an additional two in the planning stage. The DDG Kongo-class ships are being outfitted with SM-3s. The fifth and last DD Takanami-class was commissioned in 2006.
Japan has a number of new aircraft programs, including the C-X, P-X and F-X. The C-X/P-X is a joint effort to create a next-generation cargo transport aircraft and a next-generation maritime patrol/anti-submarine aircraft. Japan plans to build 80 P-X and 44 C-X aircraft, both for delivery in 2011-’12.
“The Japan Defense Agency announced the indigenous development programs of the P-X and C-X in December 2000 and the initial funding for research and development was approved in JFY 2001 budget,” said Sumihiko Kawamura, deputy director of The Okazaki Institute, Tokyo.
“The total development cost of both aircraft is estimated at $3 billion on the assumption that the simultaneous development of both aircraft could save $174 million to $261 million” because they have 25 percent of the body and 75 percent of the avionics in common.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries was awarded the contract for both aircraft in 2001. It previously built more than 100 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft for the Japanese military.
The F-X program is a requirement for 80 new fighter aircraft to replace the F-4s before 2010. John Tkacik, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, argues that “Japan certainly needs a fifth-generation fighter, given the tremendous expansion in China’s fourth-generation fighter fleet.”
Potential competitors include the U.S. F-15, F/A-18, F-35 and F-22; the Eurofighter Typhoon; and an upgraded F-2. Costs for the program depend on the platform. An upgraded F-2 aircraft would be significantly lower than an F-22, which would be exorbitant at $200 million a copy.
Much of the missile defense procurement has pushed other military orders to the back burner. But plans are still in place for a wide array of weapons and upgrades for all services.
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force is looking at replacing its FH-70 towed howitzer with a light self-propelled howitzer. Nexter is offering the 155mm Caesar self-propelled system and BAE Systems is offering the 155mm Archer self-propelled system. A decision is expected in 2007 or 2008.
Army aviation is procuring 70 UH-60 Black Hawks to replace aging UH-1H/Js. Japan also has decided to procure AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to replace the AH-1S Cobras. One EC225 Super Puma helicopter is on order for VVIP missions.