In the short term, two top acquisition priorities of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) are Boeing [BA] KC-46A Pegasus tankers and Northrop Grumman [NOC] E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft–planes also in the inventory of the U.S. Air Force, a top JASDF official said on Nov. 5.
“We need to make every effort [for] on-schedule acquisition, preferably ahead of schedule,” JASDF Chief of Staff Gen. Shunji “Bert” Izutsu said during a Stimson Center forum with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin “Gumby” Schneider, the director of the Air Force staff who recently moved to the Pentagon after his previous assignment as the commander of U.S. forces in Japan and as commander of the 5th Air Force under Pacific Air Forces at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Japan has Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-2 and F-35s, but the nation has lacked a sufficient number of refueling tankers for possible deep strike missions, Masahi Murano, a Japan Chair fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote last year.
While China has 29 People’s Liberation Army Air Force and Navy bases within unrefueled fighter range of the disputed Senkaku Islands, U.S. and Japanese forces have only four, according to U.S. Naval War College Profs. Jonathan Caverley and Peter Dombrowski.
JASDF received its first KC-46A from Boeing on Oct. 31 (Defense Daily, Nov. 1).
JASDF is to receive four KC-46As, which are to have the Raytheon Technologies [RTX] ALR-69A Radar Warning Receiver and Raytheon’s Miniaturized Airborne GPS Receiver (MAGR) 2000 (2K) to provide GPS Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) capability, and Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system. Boeing has said that its Japanese partners build 16 percent of the KC-46A airframe.
In addition to their defense mission, the planes may also aid Japan’s humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, Boeing said, because of the aircraft’s ability to carry cargo and passengers.
Northrop Grumman has delivered seven of 13 E-2Ds to Japan under two multi-year contracts. Last year, Japan expressed fears of a delay of four years or more in the original E-2D deployment schedule because of modifications to the aircraft to extend the planes’ range to that required by the JASDF.
On Nov. 5, Schneider said that the Air Force was taking a “hard look” at hardening Pacific bases, dispersing forces, and enhancing missile defenses to counter China, North Korea, and Russia.
But Izutsu said that a sufficient hardening of bases was “impossible” due to the ease with which adversaries could target Japanese bases and that a dispersion of forces across airfields and remote locations, along with integrated command and control, is crucial.