The cabinet of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a record 5.05 trillion yen ($41.4 billion) defense budget for fiscal year 2016/2017 and slightly below the 5.09 trillion yen requested by Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD), The Japan Times reports. This marks the fourth consecutive rise in defense spending since Shinzo Abe assumed office in December 2012.
The rise in the defense budget is primarily driven by a weakened yen, higher personnel costs and an increase in expenses for the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corp’s Futenma air base in Okinawa Prefecture, which increased from 24.4 billion yen for the current fiscal year to 59.5 billion yen under what is known as “SACO (Special Action Committee on Okinawa)-related expenses.”
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When you take “SACO-related expenses” out of the equation, the actual spending that JMOD has proposed for itself is approximately 4.93 trillion yen ($41.4 billion) — comparable to what Tokyo spent on defense in 2002.
Defense spending for the next fiscal year starting in April 2016 will be heavily focused on solidifying Japan’s position in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – an island chain administered by Tokyo in the East China Sea—by investing in additional amphibious warfare capabilities.
As I reported before (See: “Japan’s Defense Ministry Wants Record Military Budget for 2016”), the Ministry of Defense’s 10-year National Program Guidelines – subdivided into two five-year Mid-Term Defense Programs – has allocated 23.97 trillion yen ($199.5 billion) within five years (2014-2018) toward the creation of more amphibious warfare capabilities and a lighter “Dynamic Joint Defense Force.”
By 2023, the Ministry of Defense plans to convert seven out of the current 15 Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) brigades and divisions into mobile divisions and brigades that can be more easily transferred to the East China Sea in the event of a crisis. A Japanese division usually consists of around 8,000 troops, whereas a brigade fields around 4,000.
The fiscal year 2016/2017 shopping list encompasses 11 units of AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles made by BAE System — Japan is in the process of setting up an Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade by 2017 — 17 Mitsubishi SH-60K anti-submarine warfare helicopters, four Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (a hybrid between a conventional helicopter and turboprop plane), three Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, six F-35A Lightning II fighter planes, one Kawasaki C-2 military transport aircraft, and 36 new lighter maneuver combat vehicles (MCVs).
Other purchases include tanker aircraft, Aegis destroyers, and mobile missile batteries. Acquisition costs for the Ministry of Defense keep rising. I wrote in September:
Japan is also planning to set up a Defense Procurement Agency (DPA) in early 2016 to better coordinate new acquisitions among the three service branches and to encourage the domestic defense industry to partner up with international defense contractors to co-develop new military hardware.
In addition, Tokyo is also working to introduce more long-term defense contracts and bulk orders in order to save costs and provide more stable and predictable procurement plans for defense firms. For example, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) will receive 20 P-1 patrol planes – Japan’s first indigenously developed and built maritime patrol aircraft – by 2022 based on one placed bulk order that will save the MOD 41.7 billion yen ($348 million) (…).
Japan’s Ministry of Defense will also purchase land and expand a GSDF base to station a patrol unit on Miyakojima in Okinawa Prefecture, and build another base to house a GSDF patrol unit equipped with mobile surveillance radars on Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture. The MOD will also construct a military radar station on Yonaguni island, the westernmost inhabited island of Japan.