The Cabinet approved a defense budget Friday of ¥5.40 trillion ($47 billion) for fiscal 2022, setting a record high for the eighth consecutive year, to advance the development of new technologies in the face of China’s growing military might and the North Korean nuclear threat.
The draft budget, including outlays for hosting U.S. military bases, rose 1.1% from the current fiscal year ending in March as Japan ramps up its defense capabilities.
The increase for a 10th year in a row is largely attributable to a sharp rise in research and development spending, for which the Defense Ministry has earmarked ¥291.1 billion, up ¥79.6 billion, or 37.6%, from a year earlier.
The ministry will invest in advanced technologies, such as crewless planes that use artificial intelligence to fly in teams with next-generation fighter jets.
“As the security environment surrounding Japan has been changing at an unprecedented speed and becoming increasingly severe, it is an urgent task for Japan to strengthen its necessary defense capabilities,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a news conference.
The ministry has allocated ¥85.8 billion for the development of new fighter jets to replace the Air Self-Defense Force’s aging F-2s. For this goal, Japan will work together with Britain on a new jet engine.
It has also decided to spend ¥39.3 billion for standoff missiles to be launched from ships, aircraft and land.
Such missiles are capable of attacking vessels from outside their firing range and are likely to be able to fly 900 kilometers, with officials saying that they are aimed at deterring China’s naval activities around Japanese islands while keeping Self-Defense Forces personnel safe.
“In recent years, there have been qualitative improvements in the activities of the Chinese military. There have been moves to improve their practical integrated operations and capabilities to execute missions,” Kishi told reporters.
The ministry has allocated ¥127.8 billion to acquire 12 more F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets and ¥10.2 billion for small and midsized transport ships to support remote island defense operations in the southwest, where the SDF has deployed or plans to deploy missile units. Among the remote islands are the Japanese-controlled, China-claimed Senkakus in the East China Sea.
The ministry has secured ¥52 billion to upgrade 70 F-15 fighter jets, a move also aimed at boosting defense capabilities around the southwestern chain of islands.
As Japan has scrapped its plan to introduce U.S.-made Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense systems, it has earmarked ¥5.8 billion to modify radars for new ships equipped with Aegis missile interceptors.
As for outer space, the ministry plans to spend ¥117.7 billion to conduct research projects such as those involving the detection and pursuit of hypersonic glide weapons using satellite constellations.
Such weapons, already developed by China and Russia, can glide at lower altitudes faster than ballistic missiles and are harder to intercept with conventional missile defense systems.
In the field of electromagnetic waves, the ministry plans to use ¥6.5 billion for the development of “future rail guns” that can fire bullets at high speed to shoot down hypersonic guided missiles.
It has also set aside ¥7.2 billion to experiment with technologies designed to shoot down drones with high-powered microwaves.
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