Tokyo (GDC) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has approved a ninth consecutive rise in military spending, funding the development of an advanced stealth fighter and longer-range anti-ship missile to counter China’s growing military power.
The Ministry of Defense will get a record $68 billion for the year starting in April, up 1.1 per cent from this year. With Suga’s large majority in parliament, enactment of the budget is all but certain.
Suga is continuing the controversial military expansion pursued by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, to give Japan’s forces new planes, missiles and aircraft carriers with greater range and potency against potential foes including neighbouring China.
China plans to raise its military spending by 6.6 per cent this year, the smallest increase in three decades.
Japan is buying longer-range missiles and considering arming and training its military to strike distant land targets in China, North Korea and other parts of Asia.
The F-15J upgrade includes a wide array of new systems, including Raytheon’s AN/APG-82(V)1 active electronically scanned array radar and BAE Systems’ AN/ALQ-239 Digital Electronic Warfare System — in essence, a powerful radar-jammer. The JSI also could carry new missiles.
“Japan already has the advanced AAM-4B, which has its own AESA seeker, but there are reports that the country might consider acquiring variants of the U.S.-made AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile,” Joseph Trevithick noted at The War Zone.
The AIM-120s are smaller than the AAM-4B and reportedly have a shorter maximum engagement range, but the F-15J JSI may be able to carry substantially more missiles of the American weapons, which could compensate for that relative loss of capability.”
Beyond that, Japan is working with European missile consortium MBDA’s division in the United Kingdom to develop the Joint New Air-to-Air Missile. This weapon will reportedly leverage the seeker and other components of the AAM-4B together with features from MBDA’s ramjet-powered Meteor.
A planned jet fighter, the first in three decades, is expected to cost around $40 billion and be ready in the 2030s. That project, which will be led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with help from Lockheed Martin, gets $706 million in the new budget.
Japan will spend $323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its south-western Okinawan island chain.
Other big purchases include $628 million for six Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters, including two short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) B variants that will operate off a converted helicopter carrier.
The military will also get $912 million to build two compact warships that can operate with fewer sailors than conventional destroyers, easing pressure on a navy struggling to find recruits in an ageing population.
Japan also wants two new warships to carry powerful new Aegis air and ballistic missile defense radars that have much as three times the range of older models. The government has not yet estimated the cost of the plan, which replaces a project cancelled in June to construct two ground Aegis Ashore stations.
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