(Sentaku: December 2015 – p. 98)
The Ministry of Defense (MOD) will start operating its own satellites and launch a specialized Air SDF space surveillance unit in December. Officially, these steps are being taken to “strengthen the SDF’s communication capability” and “prevent space debris collisions,” but in reality, they are meant to counteract China, which is moving ahead with military expansion in outer space.
A MOD source asserts that “the greatest threat is the deployment of weapons for the destruction of satellites.”
In 2007, China conducted an anti-satellite missile test, destroying one of its old satellites from the ground.
The U.S. has been demanding that the SDF deploy powerful telescopes and personnel for outer space surveillance, particularly over Northeast Asia. The creation of the new space surveillance unit will be the beginning of such efforts. Intelligence gathered by the SDF will be transmitted to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) instantaneously. In case a satellite is at risk of being attacked, it will be able to change course. While this is supposed to be part of Japan-U.S. cooperation, SDF members in the field lament that they are “increasingly becoming subcontractors to the U.S. forces,” according to a senior SDF officer.
The U.S. and China are engaged in a fierce competition in developing not only ground-based weapons to destroy satellites, but even laser weapons for attacking ground targets from satellites in orbit. Japan is likely to take on an increasing burden.