Japan is pursuing a mix of imported, indigenous and cooperatively developed technologies to beef up its defenses as China, North Korea and Russia flex their muscles with various new weapon systems, a Japanese defense official said Dec. 19.
Japan faces an “increasingly severe” security environment, said Hirokazu Hokazono, deputy commissioner and chief defense scientist for the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). China is developing the J-20 next-generation fighter, GJ-1 Yilong attack unmanned aircraft and Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21) anti-ship ballistic missile and has built and fortified man-made islands. North Korea is testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Russia is developing the PAF KA T-50 next-generation fighter and has flown its A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft over the Sea of Japan.
“If we do not adopt appropriate defense technology policies, there is a risk of losing the technological superiority of the U.S. and Japan,” Hokazono said.
To boost its defenses, Japan plans to buy several foreign systems, including the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Global Hawk unmanned plane, the Bell Helicopter [TXT] – Boeing [BA] V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the BAE Systems [BA] AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
Hokazono said his government remains committed to buying the V-22 despite the Dec. 13 crash-landing of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 in shallow water near Okinawa. During the incident, which remains under investigation, the MV-22’s rotor blades hit a refueling hose while receiving fuel from another aircraft.
The U.S. and Japanese governments “will soon find appropriate solutions for overcoming this kind of event,” Hokazono said at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. “We are very optimistic [that we will] mitigate these kinds of issues.”
On its own, ATLA is developing the C-2 cargo aircraft, the Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle, the XASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missile and the Improved Type-03 medium-range surface-to-air missile.
Equipment and technologies that ATLA wants to pursue in the future include unmanned aircraft to provide ballistic missile warning and perform fighter missions; long-endurance unmanned underwater vehicles to support manned submarines; artificial intelligence and high-performance sensors to improve airborne warning and surveillance; and high-power lasers and microwaves to counter saturation attacks of cruise missiles.
With the United States, Japan is developing the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor for ballistic missile defense and researching high-speed multi-hull vessels, hybrid electric propulsion and the impact of jet fuel and noise on people. With the United Kingdom, it is conducting a feasibility study of a Joint New Air to Air Missile (JNAAM).