The security environment has been growing increasingly severe. The government should work toward steadily enhancing deterrence while striving to curtail costs for defense equipment.
The Defense Ministry’s budgetary requests for fiscal 2020 amount to a record ¥5,322.2 billion. If the increase in defense spending is approved, it will mark the eighth straight year-on-year rise.
The ministry’s requests are notable for being aimed at bolstering defense capabilities in new spheres such as space, cyber and electromagnetic waves. The Air Self-Defense Force plans to establish a unit specializing in space surveillance. Requests include funding for optical telescopes to be mounted on surveillance satellites.
China and Russia have been developing killer satellites designed to attack satellites. The U.S. military has established the Space Force in a bid to maintain its superiority in space. The Self-Defense Forces must hastily improve their capabilities in cooperation with the U.S. military.
The ministry has also put forth a plan to significantly expand cyber defense units. It is necessary for the ministry to cooperate with the private sector in defense of key infrastructure, including power generation and supply facilities and railways, without cooperative activities being limited to SDF networks.
The government is proceeding with the introduction of U.S.-produced F-35 stealth fighter jets. The F-35 is rather expensive, with the purchase price exceeding more than ¥10 billion apiece. Military equipment purchased from the United States are cutting-edge models but the prices are apt to be relatively high.
The Defense Ministry will establish a new department aimed at streamlining deals with the United States. It is essential to ensure the transparency of transactions and aim to reduce procurement prices.
Multifaceted approach vital
The Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces have common equipment, such as transport aircraft and helicopters. It is imperative to make package purchases and scrutinize the costs of equipment, including those purchased domestically.
North Korea has repeatedly test-fired short-range ballistic missiles.
The Defense Ministry has allocated funding to purchase the Aegis Ashore land-based missile interception system. This is aimed at ramping up its ability to deal with multiple missiles simultaneously. However, there are many strong voices of opposition in the prefectures of Akita and Yamaguchi, where Aegis Ashore is planned to be deployed.
Also regarding Osprey transport aircraft, it has yet to be decided where to deploy them even if they have been purchased from the United States.
It is problematic that military equipment cannot be operated even if it is purchased. Efforts to seek the understanding of local governments and residents on deployment should not be neglected.
The ASDF has asked for funding to purchase successor aircraft to F-2 fighters without mentioning the procurement price. It will coordinate views with the Finance Ministry.
To maintain the technology of the domestic industry, Japan aims to develop successor aircraft at its own initiative, but the development costs are estimated to surpass ¥1 trillion. Trimming the expense through international cooperation is the trend of the times. Multifaceted study is called for in this regard.
To bolster the defense of Nansei Islands, the Ground Self-Defense Force, which is the largest among the SDF, is reexamining its missions and staff assignments. Efforts must be made to realize the appropriate assignment of troops.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2019)