National

Japan's GSDF gets schooled in art of cyberwarfare as Chinese and Russian threats grow

Jiji

The Ground Self-Defense Force is beefing up its educational programs for troops in electronic and cyberwarfare in an effort to narrow wide gaps with other countries in the region in those areas.

A new curriculum dedicated to electronic warfare will be established by the end of this month at the GSDF's Signal School in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

In addition, a course specializing in cyberdefense is scheduled to start in April next year at the GSDF's High Technical School in the same city.

"China and Russia are strengthening their military's cyberattack capabilities and practical ability for electronic warfare," Defense Minister Taro Kono said in a speech at the GSDF's Kurihama Camp, where the signal school is located, on Thursday.

Before the speech, Kono inspected the in-vehicle network electronic warfare system, dubbed NEWS, which is capable of interfering with enemy communications. He also inspected the unified cybereducation curriculum for the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense forces at the camp.

In 2014, Russia's invasion of Ukraine shook the world in terms of cyber and electronic warfare, with the Russian Army disrupting Ukraine's communications network to take over the command system. Russia is said to have overwhelmed Ukraine with only one-third of the latter's soldiers.

To get ready for such new forms of battle, the Self-Defense Forces this year created an 80-troop electronic warfare unit at the GSDF's Kengun Camp in Kumamoto Prefecture. In addition, the number of troops to engage in electronic and cyberwarfare will be raised to well over 1,000 by the end of fiscal 2023, with Cyber Defense Group personnel increased by 70 to 290.

The SDF is also making personnel development efforts, by having members study at universities and cybersecurity companies.

But Japan still clearly lags behind countries it sees as military threats, such as China and North Korea, which are believed to have cyberunits with 30,000 and 6,800 troops, respectively.

Problems also remain in securing personnel to counter cyberattacks.

Although the government has an employment system for highly capable civilian hackers, the system has not been utilized due chiefly to concerns over the management of confidential information and the unpopularity of the bureaucratic workplace environment, critics said.

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