The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) is ramping up efforts to support defence industrial co-operation on major programmes with the aim to boost local capability. The effort reflects growing economic constraints – amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic – and a linked requirement to bolster self-reliance.
The MoD has told Janes that its industrial participation strategy will be channelled through projects to enable local firms to play a more expansive role in two channels of engagement involving imported defence equipment: manufacturing components and systems, and the provision of comprehensive maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capability.
The MoD said other industrial priorities include the ongoing programme to locally assemble the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft and to strengthen the country’s network of defence-sector small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
A spokesperson from the MoD said that these efforts are a direct response to weaknesses in the Japanese defence industrial base and requirements outlined in the country’s 2019 defence policies – the long-term National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and associated five-year Medium Term Defense Program (MTDP) – to strengthen the national defence industrial base.
Janes analysis: Japan on the global stage
Japan has been promoting defence exports since it lifted its self-imposed ban on such sales in 2014. Its biggest sale to date was announced in August 2020 and featured a USD103 million contract from the Philippines to transfer Mitsubishi Electric’s J/FPS-3 air defence radar.
In fiscal year 2021 Japan’s defence expenditure is JPY5.34 trillion (USD49 billion), a 0.5% increase over the 2020 allocation of JPY5.31 trillion. The 2021 budget is the ninth in a row in which the defence allocation has increased nominally.
However, in real terms – once inflation is included in the calculation – Japan’s defence budget has contracted in recent years and is forecast by Janes to remain relatively flat in the near term.
Janes Company Intelligence (JCI) shows that the vast majority of Japanese defence firms’ work is for the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF). MHI’s biggest customers include the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and JASDF, with more than half of the corporation’s work in the coming decade (52%) involved in military aircraft, with 28% and 16% of its work involved in military ships and missiles respectively.
Its major programmes as of 2021 include the production of Sikorsky SH-60K helicopters, the assembly of F-35s, Japan’s future frigate programme, and the sustainment of F-2 fighters.
According to JCI data, the majority of Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ (KHI’s) work in the coming decade (77%) is projected to be focused on military aircraft including the C-2 transport aircraft, P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, and Boeing CH-47F heavy transport helicopters. KHI’s work on military ships will constitute about 19% of its work, with much of this focused on Japan’s next-generation submarines, which will replace the JMSDF’s Harushio and Oyashio-class boats.
Japan’s biggest foreign suppliers include Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Janes Company Intelligence shows that some of Lockheed Martin’s major programmes over the coming decade in Japan include the F-35 and related contracts as well as sales of various anti-ship missiles; search, track and targeting systems; air search systems; and missile launchers. Boeing’s biggest programmes in Japan include the KC-46A Pegasus, support and upgrades for Japan’s fleet of E-767 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft; and support for the KC-767J tanker.
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