Defense Agency eyes SDF update

2005 budget request focuses on missile defense, weapons

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The Defense Agency on Tuesday requested 4.933 trillion yen for its fiscal 2005 budget to update the Self-Defense Forces to make them better prepared to counter terrorist, guerrilla, missile and other threats.

The amount is virtually unchanged from the initial outlay for the current year, with a rise of just 1.2 percent.

The request is in line with a paper on Japan’s future defense direction presented in December when the government elected to introduce a U.S.-developed missile defense shield.

Based on the paper, which calls for a “drastic review of the current (military) organization and equipment” to meet new security challenges, the government is now working to update the nation’s basic defense program by year’s end.

Reflecting the shift in defense priorities, the agency’s budget request for tanks and other heavy armored vehicles and artillery — the main ground combat weapons of the Cold War — fell to a record low 37.1 billion yen, or less than half the amount spent on those arms in the peak year of 1990.

Naval forces are also facing a budgetary cutback, as the agency has opted not to seek any new destroyers for the first time since the Maritime Self-Defense Force was formed in 1954.

The agency instead plans to proceed with the missile defense project, introduce more compact and agile equipment and weapons, including mobile radar systems and light armored vehicles, and develop information infrastructure.

The agency is requesting 144.2 billion yen for missile defenses for fiscal 2005.

The agency plans to use the funds to upgrade the second of four destroyers equipped with the Aegis air-defense system — the first one was upgraded this year — and modify the second of the Air Self-Defense Force’s four ground-to-air missile groups. The first group was modified this year. It also plans to purchase interceptor missiles from the United States.

The government plans to complete deployment by 2011 of both sea- and land-based interceptor missiles at an estimated cost of 500 billion yen. The Aegis destroyers will be armed with SM-3 interceptor missiles and the ground-to-air missile units will be modified to accommodate PAC-3 (Patriot Advance Capability-3) interceptor missiles.

To counter commando and terrorist attacks, the agency is seeking 38.1 billion yen to deploy mobile radar systems along Japan’s coast, purchase light armored vehicles and night vision equipment, and improve urban drill sites.

An additional 9.6 billion yen has been requested for measures against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, which include the development of reconnaissance vehicles to detect and neutralize such lethal substances.

The Defense Agency is also placing great emphasis on the development of information infrastructure. It is seeking an outlay of 247.9 billion yen to enhance intelligence-gathering and analysis abilities and develop command, control and communications systems.