Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to seek a record-high budget of ¥5.26 trillion ($48.1 billion) for fiscal 2018 as the country seeks to beef up its missile defense capabilities in the face of growing threats by North Korea, a government source said Tuesday.
The ministry plans to set aside ¥47.2 billion to acquire a new type of interceptor missile to be loaded on Self-Defense Forces destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile defense system, while also asking for funding to introduce a land-based Aegis system known as Aegis Ashore.
The fiscal 2018 budget request would mark a 2.5 percent rise from the initial budget for the current year through March. The defense budget has been on the rise since fiscal 2013 under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, topping ¥5 trillion in the fiscal 2017 budget for a second-straight year.
The ministry will leave open the actual sum it is forecasting for the Aegis Ashore program because of the need for consultations with the United States, which owns the technology. But it plans to finalize the costs by the end of the year, when the government will draw up the fiscal 2018 budget.
Under the current multitier ballistic missile defense system, the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors are tasked with stopping missiles in the outer atmosphere. If they fail, the Air Self-Defense Force’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors are the next line of defense.
The new type of interceptor the ministry wants to acquire with the ¥47 billion budget is the SM-3 Block 2A. It also plans to spend ¥20.5 billion to purchase an improved version of PAC-3 missiles known as PAC-3 MSE.
About ¥10.7 billion is eyed to upgrade the air defense radar network, the source said. The updated network is expected to help the country prepare for missiles launched on a highly “lofted” trajectory, which are more difficult to intercept than those fired on a normal trajectory. The ministry also plans to request ¥19.6 billion to develop a prototype radar system to enhance missile detection.
To defend far-flung islands in the country’s southwest amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness, the ministry will seek ¥55.2 billion to install facilities to be used for SDF members on guard duty.
The ministry also wants to acquire more aircraft, planning the purchase of six F-35 stealth fighter jets for ¥88.1 billion and four Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft for ¥45.7 billion.
The ministry is also moving ahead with plans to create a new “space unit” within the SDF that will be tasked with protecting satellites, used by Japan and the United States, from space debris spreading across orbits. The debris includes satellites no longer in use and rocket fragments. About ¥4 billion is expected to be earmarked for designing an observation system to be used by the unit, the source said.