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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Japan Prepares for Defense

 In the near past you never heard much about Japan's defense forces (SDF),  investment was relatively low,  but with potential nearby threats,  that is changing,  RAND writes about it in come detail. 

Japan's Upcoming Defense Efforts


F-2 Fighters from the 8th Air Wing of Japan Air Self-Defense Force hold a joint military drill with the United States off Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu, Japan, November 5, 2022, photo by Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Reuters  ... ' 

Photo by Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Reuters    by Jeffrey W. Hornung, December 13, 2022  RAND

On December 16th, the Japanese government looks set to release three important documents: a new National Security Strategy and two defense documents that lay out spending priorities over the next ten years and five years. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio recently ordered his finance and defense ministers to increase Japan's defense budget to 2 percent of GDP in the next five years. This is historic given Japan's tendency over the past four decades to artificially limit spending to only 1 percent. The government has outlined seven key areas of focus for defense spending with further clarity on priorities expected when the new documents are released. In preparation for the release of these documents, here are six areas that could be candidates not only to receive a greater prioritization of resources, but also greater scrutiny.

How Will the Defense Increase Be Resourced?

The first area is how much the defense budget will actually grow? That may seem strange, given that the government is intent on increasing the budget, but the details matter because the government is not attaining that increase through new spending alone. Some of it will come from inclusion of existing budgets for things like the Japan Coast Guard and public infrastructure under the notion that the entire government is responsible for national defense. This inclusion may help the government achieve its goal, despite it being a bit of smoke-and-mirrors to enable the government to claim a 2 percent success. Nevertheless, the overall spending on defense will increase, and substantially. For that portion that is pure increase, however, how will it be resourced? An advisory council to the prime minister cautioned to not lean heavily on issuing debt, given that Japan's debt stands at more than twice the size of the economy. The question then is what combination will the increase take? If debt is an option, how much? If tax increases are likely, how much of that burden will be shared by income taxes versus corporate taxes? And will any other existing budgets experience reductions to help pay for the higher defense expenditures?

How Independent Will Japan's Counter-Strike Capabilities Be?

Although nothing is official, it appears Japan has already decided on acquiring long-range strike capability.

Without a doubt, the item that has received the most attention has been the public debates regarding Japan's possible acquisition of long-range strike capabilities. In the parlance of Japan—where even language can denote “offensive” militaristic intentions—this has been called “counter-strike” capabilities. While it is common to overlook the fact that Japan already boasts a robust missile portfolio on its air and maritime platforms, as well as ground-launched, anti-ship cruise missiles, it does not have a ground-launched variant meant for targeting enemy targets inside their territory. Nor does it have the supporting infrastructure to target, mission plan, or conduct battle damage assessment to conduct precision strikes against ground targets. Although nothing is official, it appears Japan has already decided on acquiring this capability, with media reporting Japan's interest in the U.S.-made Tomahawk. Yet, if part of the logic for acquiring this is to have an independent deterrent capability, then the focus will turn to whether it invests in the critical supporting infrastructure as well. With the exception of a recent Yomiuri article citing an interest in fielding a 50-unit satellite constellation, there has not been a large focus on Japan acquiring its own sensors and satellites to identify targets and engage in battle assessments. The defense buildup plan should provide insights into what Japan is planning to do in this critical area.

What Will Be Japan's Plans for Munitions?

Assuming Japan does move forward with counter-strike capabilities, there are two associated issues that may be of interest. One is the level of munition stockpiles. For the investment in strike to move beyond purely symbolic “deterrent” importance to a capability with real deterrent value, Japan may need to invest in a lot of these missiles. Yet, Japan's track record is not good. Despite no public records of current munition stockpiles, media reports and private discussions with officials reveal that Japan has not historically done well at stockpiling large numbers of munitions, either air- or ship-launched variants. Recent MOD budgets have dedicated resources to “securing continuous operations,” under which standoff munitions are included. The August 2022 defense budget request also includes ammunition for continuous operations and securing manufacturing systems of some types of ammunition. This could be an indication that Japan is serious, but Japan's missile plans appear very ambitious and historical experience shows this has never been an area of much follow-through. Importantly, often underexamined is the fact that many of Japan's munition depots are old. If Japan is increasing its munition stocks, including a new counter-strike capability, resources will also be needed to build new depots or upgrade older ones. Relying on U.S. depots is not a sustainable long-term option as the United States is also building up its munitions and will need a place to store them. Critically, Japan's depots may also need to be better situated near the site where launchers are deployed, something that plagues the SDF in some prefectures.

What Are Japan's Long-Term Plans for Air and Sea Lift?

Despite being an archipelagic country, Japan has not historically invested heavily in air and sea lift. Not considering the SDF's helicopters or MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, and assuming that the SDF utilizes its limited number of KC-767s and KC-130Hs solely in refueling roles (as opposed to transport roles), the SDF's airlift capacity by the end of the decade will be comprised of approximately 30 C-130Hs and C-2s. When we consider likely attrition through combat and aircraft grounded for repairs, it is difficult to accept that 30 aircraft will be adequate during a conflict. Unfortunately, the SDF will not be able to rely on sealift for relief, as the situation there is even worse, with heavy sealift capabilities consisting of three Ōsumi-class LSTs. Given these small numbers, the SDF's capacity to transport personnel, munitions, and larger capabilities could be restrained. The last 10-year spending plan showed no hint at addressing these shortfalls; neither does the recent defense budget request, with the exception of a couple of watercraft over the coming years. It can be expected that reinforcing key SDF garrisons in the Southwest Island chain will require significant lift capabilities. The United States does not have the capacity to assist in this area, given that a conflict will place heavy demands on existing U.S. lift capabilities. Given this state of affairs, what will the MOD envision for long-term lift?  ... ' 

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