Japan’s Ministry of Defense has requested a budget increase of 2.4 percent in 2015 for a total budget of ¥4.9 trillion ($47.25 billion), returning the budget to its 1990s peak levels and solidifying a reversal from a decade of declines during the 2000s.
Citing the need to counter growing instability in East Asia, the MoD said its most pressing need is to improve its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), particularly regarding maritime and ballistic missile threats, and to deter potential aggression to the nation’s far-flung southern island chain.
Accordingly, among its biggest items, the MoD is requesting ¥378.1 billion to deploy 20 of the PC-3 replacement Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft in groups of five between 2018 and 2021. The second big-ticket item is two new Atago-class Aegis destroyers, with the MoD expanding Japan’s Aegis fleet to eight ships by the end of fiscal 2020.
The third is a request for ¥131.5 billion for six F-35A joint strike fighters for the air self-defense forces, up from the four requested for the current year.
The Japanese fiscal year runs April through March.
While there is much continuity between yearly requests, and such requests follow five-year Mid-Term Defense Plans, this year’s request cements the commitment by the conservative Abe administration, which came to power in 2012, to reverse a decade-long decline in defense spending, said Christopher Hughes, an expert on Japan’s military, and professor of International Politics and Japanese Studies at the UK’s University of Warwick.
“What the budget request does illustrate is a hardening of Japan’s resolve to stay the course on building up a high-end JSDF with some serious capabilities that can fend off China. So there is no backsliding here; plus, the request for the 2.4 percent increase seems quite significant,” Hughes said.