TOKYO -- More than 40% of key defense hardware that Japan plans to introduce by the end of fiscal 2018 has not been fully budgeted for, and even some that has is behind schedule for deployment, leaving potentially serious gaps in this country's security capabilities.
The delays come even as Japan's defense spending climbs to new heights. The fiscal 2018 budget proposal approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government in December seeks a record 5.19 trillion yen ($45.8 billion) for defense, a 1.3% year-on-year increase.
Of the 23 major procurement items identified in Japan's current five-year defense program, only 13 were fully funded as of the fiscal 2018 draft budget. These include two destroyers fitted with the Aegis missile interceptor system and 28 F-35A stealth fighters.
On the other 10, appropriations have fallen short. While the fiscal 2014-18 procurement plan calls for 10 C-2 transport planes, contractor Kawasaki Heavy Industries is running about five years behind schedule. Funds have been budgeted for only seven of the planes so far. A dearth of C-2s, used to carry combat vehicles and midsize helicopters in addition to personnel, could hinder Japan's efforts to defend outlying islands and respond to disasters.
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