National

GSDF eyes smartphones to boost communications with U.S. forces

Kyodo

Japan plans to improve communications between the Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. military forces by using smartphone-type terminals, a Defense Ministry source said Sunday.

The government start developing a software prototype from April with the aim of rolling it out in fiscal 2018, the source said.

The Self-Defense Forces are trying to improve coordination with U.S. troops at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to promote debate on rewriting the Constitution, or the government’s interpretation of it, so Japan can exercise its U.N. right to collective self-defense, or coming to the defense of an ally under armed attack.

The GSDF usually uses radio or mobile phones to communicate but delays can result when contacting personnel on frontline warships and fighter planes.

In addition, the use of English naturally remains a major problem for Japanese troops because of the potential for misunderstandings, the source said.

Japan and the United States have no common communication terminals. For joint exercises, Japanese troops sometimes borrow communications equipment from the U.S.

To address the problems, the GSDF began distributing special terminals resembling smartphones that were jointly developed by NEC Corp. and U.S. private sector to troops in fiscal 2012, the source said.

GSDF troops can use the devices to confirm unit locations and exchange email on strategy.

Installing specially designed software would allow them to share sensitive data on a real-time basis with the U.S. military as well as personnel on Japanese warships and fighters, the source said.

Under the trial starting in fiscal 2016, reconnaissance personnel will simulate situations in which they spot enemies in the woods and other complex terrain and inform command centers about the size of enemy forces.

Japan will check if the ground troops can receive information from the U.S. military and Japanese warships and fighters, the source said.

Another software program may also be installed that would enable the GSDF to share data with firefighters and police engaged in disaster relief operations, according to the source.

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