Japan invests in early warning aircraft to offset threat from China

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  01/08/2013  12:00:00 AM EST
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Just a month after winning the election in Japan, prime minister Shinzo Abe, known to be a right-wing hawk, looks set to increase the nation’s military spend as the border threat from China continues to rage.

Japanese officials have indicated that an extra 100 billion yen ($1.15 billion) will be made available for military technologies and R&D, particularly in the radar and airborne early warning space.

“We have decided that the additional budget will be used for research into a new radar system as well as fuel and other maintenance costs for early-warning aircraft,” an anonymous official told Defense News.

The move comes as the dispute over the Senkaku – or Diaoyus – islands shows little sign of subsiding in 2013 after the Chinese ambassador was summoned to Tokyo over claims that Chinese government ships are persistently sailing into the waters surrounding the islands.

Japan’s defence budget for the year ending in March 2012 was 4.65 trillion yen ($53 billion). Coming in at around 0.9% of GDP, it isn’t a significant military outlay by the standards of other global powers such as the U.S. and even Britain. The budget has been steadily declining for a decade as Japan battles its crippling public debt and continues to struggle free from the grip of the global recession. While tensions in the Asia Pacific region heighten, which were further exacerbated by North Korea’s recent missile launch, it’s not surprising the newly elected Abe wants to increase the defence spend and bolster national security.

China has stated that it will seize the islands by force if necessary and as a consequence “Japan has no choice but to possess deterrence by boosting its defence budget,” said Kazuhiko Togo, director at the Institute for World Affairs of Kyoto Sangyo University.

Japan isn’t the only country in the region that is enhancing its airborne early warning and surveillance capabilities with India seeking to procure two Israeli-made Phalcon AWACS at a cost of over £500 million. The contract – which is augmenting the £678 million deal between India, Russia and Israel completed in 2011 and saw three Phalcons enter IAF service – was finally ratified by the Indian defence ministry last month. India has seen delays to its efforts to develop indigenous mini-AWACS since 2004, when it spent £132 million on Brazilian Embraer-145s to carry its AEW&C technology. Furthermore, the South Korean military is currently spending 37 billion win to upgrade the AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Radars which were introduced in the early 1990s.

The new prime minister has asserted his desire to improve relations with its like-minded neighbours in the region such as Australia and India to offset China’s aggressive posturing.


Andrew Elwell Contributor:   Andrew Elwell

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