The government plans to include deployment of 300 high-speed combat vehicles armed with cannons in its new defense program guidelines to bolster security in the Senkaku Islands and other islets near China and Taiwan, a government source said.
The Defense Ministry meanwhile plans to end tank deployments in Honshu and instead will station more tanks in Hokkaido and Kyushu, other sources said.
The high-speed vehicles can be sent to remote islands by air because they weigh less than conventional tanks. They have wheels rather than treads and can travel as fast as 100 kph on optimum terrain.
The Ground Self-Defense Force is likely to start using the vehicles from fiscal 2016, following trials, the source said. A prototype of the vehicle, which is being developed by the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces, was unveiled in October.
With the deployment of the new vehicles, the GSDF plans to reduce the number of tanks from the current 740 to 300 over the next decade, the sources said.
The ministry plans to increase the number of GSDF personnel to 159,000 from 154,000 under the current defense guidelines.
The Cabinet is expected to approve the revised guidelines, a pointer to the country’s longer-term defense policy, in mid-December.
China’s growing assertiveness over the Senkaku Islands and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have prodded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to redefine Japan’s defense posture and order a rethink of the guidelines by the end of the year.
Since Japan effectively nationalized the Senkaku islets in September 2012, China has repeatedly sent patrol ships and airplanes to the area to emphasize its claim to the territory.
Japan is also considering introducing high-speed small escort ships to counter the threat of mines and submarines, the source said.
The cost of building such a ship — the U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship — is estimated at ¥60 billion apiece. The LCS features advanced telecommunications and stealth capabilities.
Also to be added to the guidelines is an increase in the number of Aegis destroyers capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, rising to eight from the current strength of six.
The program will include plans to introduce the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor military transport aircraft and the Global Hawk drone to beef up remote island defense, the sources said. The ministry has requested funds for research on introducing the Osprey in the fiscal 2014 budget.
The ministry plans to create a new command that will supervise all GSDF units nationwide.
Cebu Philippines KYODO
A Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel carrying the bulk of SDF personnel to join emergency response and relief teams in the typhoon-hit Philippines arrived Friday near the worst-hit island of Leyte.
Japan has sent a total of three vessels to the Philippines, with the Osumi transport vessel and Towada supply vessel expected to arrive in Leyte shortly.