Friday, February 23, 2018, 08:02 (GMT+7)
On the development trend of Japan’s defence industry

Recently, due to tensions in the Northeast Asian region, Japan has made strategic adjustments, including their defence industry development. The country’s defence industry and their development trend are of concern of international community

From reality

According to observers, though being bound by the peaceful Constitution (1947), Japan is able to compete in the global weapon market thanks to their advanced scientific - technological level. According to statistics, to date, over 1,000 Japanese enterprises have been able to participate in the production of defence products. Over 90% of the weapon and equipment of the Japan’s Defence Forces are provided by technology giants, such as: Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Shinmaywa, Isikawajima, Harima, etc,. Particularly, in the field of naval shipbuilding, Japan is capable of building all kinds of modern warships, ranging from aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, frigates to submarines, etc, and has gained notable achievements. Japan-made ships are always listed among the best in the world.

Japan is also able to manufacture modern aircrafts as sophisticated as the F15s and F16s of the US. Currently, it has produced and put into operation the highly-ranked fighters F-2. Since the middle of 1980s, Japan has decided to cooperate with the US to design and manufacture their own F-16C aircrafts. Though the Japanese fighters has a similar appearance with those of the US, they are different in the structure, material, electronic and weaponry systems. Compared to the US fighters, Japanese ones use more composite materials, hence they are lighter. Japan has also been succeeded in manufacturing their 5th-generation stealth fighters equivalent to the F35s of the US and named ATD-X or F-3. Besides, Tokyo has also made some other modern aircrafts, such as: the amphibious aircraft US-2 ShinMaywa, the maritime patrol aircraft Kawasaki P-1 and some kinds of modern command and early warning aircrafts in replacement for the E-2C Hawkeye of the US. In the field of missile technology, Japan has produced many kinds of missiles, namely: the XASM-3 anti-ship missile, the Type 03 Medium-range Surface-to-air Missile , the Type 12 Surface-to-Ship Type-12 Missile.

With regard to army equipment, Tokyo has also produced and put into use some kinds of high quality weapons and equipment. Their Type 10 Tanks are always considered among the five best tanks in the world in terms of fire power, amour plate and mobility. Their Type 89 Infantry Fighting Vehicles are among the most modern ones which are equivalent to the US and European ones. Their Type 96 Amoured Personnel Carriers are as strong as the Boxer of Germany, BTR-80 of Russia, or Stryker of the US. Currently, the Mtheirubishi Heavy Industries is developing the multipurpose wheeled 8×8 armoured vehicle with stronger technical-tactical features. At the  MAST Asia 2017 (Maritime Air Systems and Technologies) convened in Chiba (Japan), there were at least 16 Japanese firms participating in the event. Products shown at the expo included missile destroyers, amphibious assault ships, demining technology, and other laser radar reconnaissance and surveillance systems, etc.

Part of the MAST Asia 2017 Exhibition  held in Chiba, Japan (Photo: Reuters)

To prospect

Though being one of the world leading countries in science and technology, Japan’s defence industry was very limited over the past 70 years due to their peaceful Constitution. Recently, in regard to tensions and security threats in the Northeast Asian region, Japan has approved major decisions in defence and security fields, such as: adopting the strategy on defence production and technological bases, increasing budget for the modernisation of weaponry, establishing specialised agency for the research, development and production of weapons and equipment, building three principles on arms exports, etc,. These policies are aimed to pave the way for the development of defence industry, reduce the reliance on the US, and compete with regional and world powers. According to analysts, through developing defence industry, Japan’s ambitions are to modernise and export weapons, enhance their status and influence in the region and in the world.

In particular, their Strategy on Defense Production and Technological Bases toward strengthening the bases to support defense forces and ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’ (released in June 2014) was aimed to build all-round potential for Japan’s defence industry in the coming years. The strategy includes three pillars, namely: creating a sustainable foundation in dual-use industry; improve competitiveness of Japan’s defence production and defence products; enhance the effectiveness and quality of defence products. Tokyo has also changed their stance on defence production when holding that the existence of defence enterprises and defence production plays an important role in their current economy.

To achieve their goals, increasing defence budget is the first step. Japanese Government has approved a record budget of USD 46 billion in the FY 2018 to strengthen the country’s defence capability facing the increasing nuclear threats from North Korea. This is the sixth consecutive year that Japan increases their defence spending. Japan’s defence budget increases an average of 10% annually and accounts for roughly 1% of GDP. In the 2014 and 2019 period, Tokyo will spend around USD 240 billion for weapon and equipment modernisation and defence industry. To realise their policies on defence industry development and export, Japan has put into operation the Department of Equipment, Technology and Supply since 1st October 2015. The main duty of this agency is to promote arms export and merge some separate offices on research and development, arms procurement and export, in order to enhance their effectiveness, reduce structure and functional overlaps. The department is rather moderate compared to their foreign counterparts, however, with a staff of 1,800 employees and a budget of USD 16.3 billion (accounting for one third of the defence budget), this agency will play an important role in the development of Japan’s defence industry. Moreover, their inception has reflected Japan’s adjusted policy from developing and producing weapon and equipment (in 1970s) to the “Strategy on Defence Production and Technological Bases”.

The establishment of a specialised agency for research, development, production and equipment of weapon is closely related with recent changes in Japan’s security policies, particularly the loosen arms export. Previously, in 1967, the then Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato released “the Three Principles on Arms Exports and the collateral policy guideline”. Accordingly, arms exports to the following countries or regions shall not be permitted: (1) Communist bloc countries, (2) countries subject to “arms” exports embargo under the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, and (3) countries involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts. In 1976, Prime Minister Takeo Miki tightened the policy as announcing that Japan would not permit arms exports to any countries. The decision was, in fact, a total ban on arms export. Until December 2013, Japan announced, for the first time, their National Security Strategy in which it would reconsider the ban on arms export. In April 2014, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed the three principles on arms export and renamed it “the Three Principles on the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology”. The new regulations allow the export of Japan’s weapons if it contributes to international peace and protect the country’s interest. This is a big opportunity for Japan’s defence enterprises as they can seek foreign markets for their warplanes, submarines, amoured vehicles, and other advanced technology defence products.

In conclusion, the new policies of Japan will pave the way for a robust development of their defence industry in the coming time. This stems from the country’s demand for maintaining national security facing the complications in the regional and world situation. However, observers warns that besides positive aspect, the development of Japan’s defence industry may concern some countries, or even trigger an arms race threatening security and stability in the region. Therefore, international opinion holds that the development of defence industry must be associated with the assurance of a security, peaceful and stable environment. Only by this way, can peace be maintained sustainably in each region and all over the world.

Senior Colonel Dang Dong Tien, General Technical Department

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