National

Japan seeks record ¥5.32 trillion defense budget with new focus on space and cyberspace

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry on Friday requested a record ¥5.32 trillion ($50 billion) budget for fiscal 2020 as it stressed the need to beef up the nation’s defense capabilities in domains such as outer space and cyberspace.

The sum marks a 1.2 percent rise from the initial budget for the current fiscal year through March 2020. If approved, the defense budget will grow for the eighth year in a row under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The ministry asked for ¥52.4 billion to strengthen its capabilities in space amid the intensifying race among major powers such as the United States, Russia and China to develop technologies in the domain.

A space operation unit will be newly formed inside the Air Self-Defense Force, including purchases of equipment to detect electromagnetic interference with Japanese satellites, as well as an optical telescope to monitor space debris and unidentified objects in outer space.

The ministry is seeking ¥23.8 billion to expand staffing levels for the cyberdefense unit and take other measures for cybersecurity. A budget of ¥20.7 billion will be earmarked to develop a “stand-off electronic warfare aircraft,” which can hinder invading enemy forces by jamming equipment.

These requested items reflect the government’s latest national defense guidelines adopted last December, which said that the fields of cyberspace, outer space and electronic warfare have the potential to “fundamentally change the shape of national security” that has so far mainly focused on conventional ground, sea and air domains.

As for the planned deployment of the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense batteries, the ministry asked for ¥12.2 billion to acquire the vertical launching system, develop human resources and conduct surveys to evaluate candidate sites for its deployment .

To counter the North Korean threat, the ministry has sought to introduce the Aegis Ashore system in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. But the plan hit a roadblock when it was disclosed in May that a geographical survey for the deployment used erroneous data, drawing harsh local backlash.

It also requested ¥3.1 billion to start upgrade work on the Izumo flat-top helicopter carrier to enable it to transport and launch fighter jets, a plan specified in the defense guidelines.

About ¥84.6 billion is eyed to buy six F-35B fighter jets to use on the Izumo. They are capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

The ministry said in the budgetary request that it is also seeking funds to develop fighters to succeed the ASDF’s F-2s, which it estimates will be retired in the 2030s, without specifying a figure.