MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan’s defense budget for the next fiscal year will set a record high for the seventh year running, although the approved figure is still lower than that requested by the Defense Ministry.
The country’s Finance Ministry approved a budget of $51.5 billion for the Defense Ministry, which is $3.5 billion lower that the Defense Ministry requested in September.
Funds expected to upgrade Japan’s fleet of fighter jets were removed as part of the reduction. Specifically, the request for $205 million to upgrade the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-15J Eagle interceptors was cut in full. The upgrade would have seen the interceptors get new radars and mission computers, and equipped with standoff land-attack missiles. But local media reports said the escalating costs of nonrecurring engineering work prompted a rethink of the program.
Japan requested and received the U.S State Department’s approval for the upgrade of up to 98 F-15Js for an estimated cost of up to $4.5 billion. The work would have been carried out by F-15 manufacturer Boeing in conjunction with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the Japanese jets under license in the 1980s.
Plans to buy two more Kawasaki C-2 airlifters and 25 wheeled Type 16 combat vehicles were also impacted, with the adjusted budget now allocating funds for only one C-2 and 22 Type 16.
However, plans for Japan to acquire four more Lockheed Martin F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing jets and two F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing jets over the next fiscal year will go ahead.
Japan has an eventual requirement for 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs, which makes it potentially the biggest operator of the Joint Strike Fighter outside of the United States. The country announced earlier this week that it selected Lockheed Martin to partner with local industry in the development of a next-generation fighter jet.
The approved budget also allocates $323 million to increase the range of the indigenous truck-launched Type 12 anti-ship missile, with Japan seeking to eventually use the missile from aircraft and ships to strike naval targets from standoff distances.
Budget documents also confirmed Japan is conducting a feasibility study on building two more destroyers fitted with the Aegis combat system and radars to beef up ballistic missile defense. The move follows the decision to cancel plans to build two Aegis Ashore systems on Japanese soil due to the danger of boosters from the missile interceptors falling onto populated areas.
Previous local media reports said the proposed destroyers would use the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-7(V)1 radar, which was also selected by Japan for the canceled Aegis Ashore systems.
The budget is for the forthcoming Japanese fiscal year, which starts April 1, 2021.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.