The Ground Self-Defense Force will launch an amphibious rapid deployment brigade on Tuesday that is regarded as Japan’s version of the U.S. Marines.
In the GSDF’s largest reorganization ever, the new unit was formed in response to China’s growing assertiveness in the East China Sea and tensions with North Korea. The 2,100-strong force will be based at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and is designed to play a key role in retaking remote islands that fall into enemy hands.
The new brigade will comprise a mainstay amphibious unit and a landing unit to operate amphibious assault vehicles currently used by the U.S. Marines. If a remote island is invaded, the troops will be delivered to the front line by these vehicles and Osprey transport aircraft the GSDF plans to acquire from the United States.
The force will use 30 imported amphibious assault vehicles after they are remodeled to GSDF specifications. But only 12 will be available when the brigade launches due a delay in delivery. There is also uncertainty about the deployment window for the Ospreys amid lingering concerns about their safety.
As part of its structural reform, the GSDF will also establish a Ground Component Command to oversee its five regional commands, a change aimed at fostering smooth operations with the Air and Maritime Self-Defense forces, as well as the U.S. military.
The new centralized command will be set up at Camp Asaka, which straddles Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture. A Japan-U.S. joint division will meanwhile be established at the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The GSDF is also revamping its 15 divisions and brigades in stages. Eight of them will be equipped with mobile combat vehicles to enable quick responses to military contingencies, including on the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by latecomers China and Taiwan.