National

Japanese defense budget hits new high with focus on space and cyberspace

Kyodo

The government Friday approved a record draft defense budget for fiscal 2020 totaling ¥5.31 trillion ($48.5 billion) as it seeks to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities in outer space and cyberspace.

The draft budget, including outlays linked to hosting U.S. military bases, is up 1.1 percent from fiscal 2019 to a record high for the sixth consecutive year as the country beefs up its ability to deal with North Korean missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

The defense budget grew for the eighth straight year under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Around ¥50.6 billion was set aside for improving outer space capabilities, an area in which major powers such as the United States, Russia and China are also believed to have been focusing in recent years.

With the country’s first space operation unit to be formed as part of the Air Self-Defense Force in the next fiscal year, funds will be put toward equipment used to detect electromagnetic interference with Japanese satellites as well as to monitor space debris and unidentified objects in outer space.

A total of ¥25.6 billion will be allocated to improving cybersecurity. The ministry plans to expand a cyber defense unit established in 2014 by increasing its workforce to 290 from 220.

Separately, ¥15 billion will be earmarked to develop a “standoff electronic warfare aircraft” which can hinder invading enemy forces by jamming equipment.

Japan’s latest national defense guidelines adopted in December last year labeled the cyberspace and outer space defense realms as having the potential to “fundamentally change the existing paradigm of national security” that has so far mainly covered conventional ground, sea and air.

The government also earmarked about ¥28 billion to develop fighter jets to succeed the ASDF’s aging F-2s, which are expected to be retired in the 2030s, and conduct research on its controlling system. Japan has been considering co-developing the future fighters with U.S. or British companies, according to government sources.

As for the planned purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter jets, ¥28.1 billion is to be spent on importing components for three F-35As which will be assembled domestically to reduce costs, while ¥79.3 billion will be used to acquire six F-35Bs, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

It is assumed the F-35Bs will operate off the Izumo flat-top helicopter carrier, which the government decided to upgrade with ¥3.1 billion, so it can transport and launch the cutting-edge fighters.

To counter the perceived threat from North Korea’s missile arsenal, about ¥12.9 billion was secured to acquire the vertical launching system for the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense batteries and conduct surveys to evaluate candidate sites to install them.

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