The Japanese government is stepping up purchases of state-of-the-art U.S. military planes under Washington’s foreign military sales (FMS) program, but its plan has come under fire from some corners — including Self-Defense Force officials.
The Defense Ministry has sought ¥501.3 billion under the government’s budget for fiscal 2020, which starts April 1, for FMS-based procurement of defense equipment from the United States.
The amount is down by ¥200 billion from the sum earmarked under the fiscal 2019 budget, which included funds for the planned introduction of the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore ground-based missile defense system, but remains more than ¥90 billion higher than the amount budgeted for fiscal 2018.
FMS-based defense equipment procurement is often criticized in Japan because contract procedures are led by the U.S., and procurement costs tend to go up as a result.
The ministry’s fund request under FMS for fiscal 2020 includes ¥112.1 billion to buy four KC-46A aerial refueling and transport aircraft made by Boeing Co. The bulk purchase can curb procurement costs, a ministry official explained.
The KC-46A purchase will be part of the government’s medium-term defense buildup program for fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2023.
But a Self-Defense Forces official has questioned the plan, noting that Japan already owns four Boeing KC-767 air tankers, deployed at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture. “Instead, the country should increase procurement of airborne warning and control system planes, which are capable of hours long surveillance flights targeting foreign aircraft that enter Japanese airspace,” the official said.
A total of six KC-46As are planned to be introduced by the end of fiscal 2024. The first of them is slated to be deployed at the ASDF’s Miho base in Tottori Prefecture, in fiscal 2020, where a new air squadron will be established. How many KC-46A aircraft the base will host eventually has yet to be decided, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. (end of excerpt)
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