The Ministry of Defense (MOD) is considering introducing transport vessels for the Ground Self-Defense Force as part of its efforts to ramp up the nation’s defenses along the Nansei Islands, several government officials revealed on July 1. The move is intended for smooth transportation between remote islands, where GSDF locates its posts. It will be incorporated into the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), which the government will endorse at the end of the year. The ministry is also thinking of using transport vessels for the purpose of prepositioning equipment and supplies to the SDF camps on the islands should a contingency or a gray-zone situation arise.
Some MOD officials are calling for deploying landing ship tanks (LST) to strengthen marine-like functions [of the GSDF] in addition to introducing smaller transport vessels that focus on mobility and adaptability. The MOD will consider what vessels will be deployed as well as their operational plans within the next ten years from fiscal 2019, which the next NDPG will cover.
The MOD is in a contract with a private ferry operator on the use of two vessels to defend outlying islands and respond to disasters. But it concluded that the GSDF needs to secure means of maritime transportation on its own due to concerns about the dispatch of private ferries to dangerous waters. Since the GSDF has little knowhow in operating vessels, the ministry also mulls recruiting retired Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel as instructors or crews.
The GSDF possess CH-47 helicopters to airlift personnel and supplies between remote islands. It also plans to deploy Ospreys, but the capacity of air transportation is insufficient. As MSDF vessels are frequently deployed to monitor Chinese naval ships, there are limits to what it can do to help the GSDF. (Abridged)