The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 18 December formally approved a plan to spend JPY27.47 trillion (USD242.7 billion) on defence over the next five years, but hopes that this figure can be brought down by about JPY1.97 trillion through cost-cutting measures.
The government’s new defence policy outline, which runs from fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) to FY 2023, features, among other things, the conversion of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) two Izumo-class helicopter carriers into multirole aircraft carriers from which the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter can be operated.
Approved on 18 December, the new National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPGs) and the associated Mid-Term Defense Plan (MTDP) also put a strong emphasis on three new defence domains – cyber, space, and electronic warfare (EW) – which are expected to form part of Japan’s new “multidimensional integrated defence force”.
Tokyo is seeking to implement a “cross-domain strategy” aimed at establishing superiority in the air, at sea, on land, and in outer space as well as in the domains of electronic warfare and cyberspace.
Government officials said at a press briefing that the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Tokyo will buy an additional 63 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35As and 42 STOVL F-35Bs over the coming decade to replace 99 of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) 201 Boeing-Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle multirole combat aircraft. The new aircraft will supplement the 42 F-35As that the JASDF is acquiring to replace its ageing fleet of McDonnell Douglas-Mitsubishi F-4EJ Kai fighters.
Defence officials also pointed out that Japan will stop using a final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility for the country’s F-35As from FY 2019 and start buying completed F-35As and F-35Bs to reduce procurement costs.