The Japanese defence ministry has called for a 3% rise in spending for 2014, with its proposed budget placing an emphasis on improving the nation’s airpower.
For the 12 months from April 2014, the ministry is calling for yen (Y) 4.8 trillion ($46 billion), compared with Y4.6 trillion in its 2013 budget.
The budget request comes amid a time of rising tensions with China over rival claims about a handful of tiny islands in the East China Sea. The islands are claimed by both countries, although Japan administers them.
The report lists eight key objectives for the proposed budget, the first two of which are increasing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and “responding to attacks on remote islets”.
The Japan Air Self-Defence Force stands to be main beneficiary of the proposal, with its budget possibly rising by 7% to Y1.9 trillion, compared with a 4.7% increase for the Ground Self-Defence Force and 2.4% increase for the Maritime Self-Defence Force.
The budget sets aside Y100 million for research into tiltrotor aircraft. The aircraft’s performance will be analysed “with the aim of requesting budget related to the acquisition of tiltrotor aircraft in fiscal year 2015”. This signals that Tokyo could soon become a significant operator of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Key air force acquisitions in the budget include four Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, three Kawasaki C-2 transports and three Sikorsky UH-60J helicopters. Some of the nation’s Mitsubishi F-2 and F-15 strike aircraft would also receive various upgrades.
Tokyo appears especially interested in bolstering the F-2’s ground-attack capabilities. The 2014 budget calls for the addition of a Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition capability to four F-2s and a trial upgrading of one example that would involve the integration of a targeting pod.
Japan's ground and maritime forces will also receive funds for new helicopters and aircraft, as well as other upgrades.
ISR improvements include the consideration of introducing high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles “that would contribute to strengthening wide-area persistent ISR capability”. Japan’s interest in the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk has long been known. Given Japan’s strategic challenges, it would likely be interested in the MQ-4C Triton variant developed for the US Navy.
The budget also calls for the improvement of airborne early warning and control capabilities through the study of new platforms for this mission, with the potential to request budget for a new platform in 2015. The nation’s Boeing E-767 aircraft would also be upgraded and more Northrop E-2C Hawkeyes would be deployed to the southern part of Japan.
In regard to maritime aviation, the budget covers the purchase of four Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft and service life extensions for three Lockheed P-3C Orions. Studies will also be conducted into the potential of ship-based UAVs.