Japan’s Defence Ministry has issued its annual budget request to the country’s powerful finance ministry, seeking a record budget for the eighth consecutive year.
The ¥5.8tr (A$77bn) request is an eight per cent increase from the previous year, and includes funding for more Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighters, and research for new electronic warfare and unmanned technology.
The budget request includes ¥28.6bn (A$308.5m) for four more F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing variants, and ¥18.8bn (A$249.8m) for two F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) variants. Japan has an eventual requirement for 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs.
The F-35Bs will operate from the helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, which is being converted from a helicopter carrier to operate the aircraft. The ministry is seeking ¥23.2bn (A$307.4m) this year for the conversion, which will include thermally protecting the ship’s flight deck and reshaping the forward section to a rectangular shape to facilitate flight operations.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is also seeking ¥69.4bn ($920.2m) to acquire the first boat of the 3,000 tonne 29SS class of diesel-electric attack submarines, a follow on to the Soryu class that Japan had previously offered for Australia’s SEA1000 Future Submarine project.
The budget request includes funding for several research projects, with ¥58.9bn (A$781.6m) requested for research into Japan’s next-generation fighter jet and associated technologies. The latter includes advanced radars and mission systems integration. A related research project is seeking ¥1.6bn ($21.3m) to research a unmanned aircraft similar to Boeing Australia’s Loyal Wingman, which will work together with the next generation fighter. Japanese media is reporting that the system will be unarmed and act just as a sensor node in the beginning, but does not rule out an armed platform in the future.
Other research projects include funding for a new stand-off jammer aircraft, likely based on the Kawasaki C-2 airlifter, and a potential Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) package for a new platform to replace the JMSDF’s current fleet of EP-3 Orion ELINT platforms.
The Japan Air Self-Defense force commissioned its first RC-2 ELINT aircraft into service on October 1, following a two-year flight-testing program. The platform, which is also based on the C-2, will replace the ageing fleet of NAMC YS-11EBs in the role.