Ospreys and F-35s on Japan’s $240B Shopping List

Japan unveiled its first national defense strategy which includes a significant buy of U.S. weaponry as tensions rise with China.

Japan adopted its first “National Security Strategy” Tuesday aimed at shaking off the restrictions of its pacifist Constitution to confront perceived threats from China by buying a vast arsenal of advanced U.S. weaponry to include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and F-35 fighters.

The strategy approved by the Cabinet of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “Japan is vigilant against China’s activities in the East and South China Seas to change the status quo based on claims that are inconsistent with international law.”

Under the plan, Japan would spend $240 billion over the next five years on new equipment for the military to include 17 MV-22 Ospreys, 28 F-35 fighters, three unarmed Global Hawk drones and 52 amphibious troop carriers to shore up the offensive capability of its Self-Defense Forces.

If fully implemented, the Japanese strategy would provide a major boost for Bell Boeing, maker of the Ospreys, and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program. Both firms have struggled to attract interest from foreign buyers in their aircraft.

For years, Bell Boeing and the Marine Corps have stressed that there was growing interest from foreign buyers in the $70 million Ospreys, but solid deals never seemed to emerge in the effort to keep open the production line in Fort Worth, Tex., past the current phase out date in 2018.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Israeli counterpart announced a major arms package for Israel that would include four or five Ospreys for Israel’s Special Forces, but the financing was still being worked out.

In Abe’s design for a new era of “pro-active pacifism” by Japan, most of the new defense spending would go towards efforts at monitoring and defending rocky uninhabited islets in the East China Sea called the Senkaku Islands by Japan, and the Diaoyu by China.

As part of the plan, Japan would create a Marine Corps-style amphibious quick reaction force within its Self-Defense Forces that would be capable moving rapidly to defend the islets that are currently administered by Japan. The new force would be based in southwestern Japan, which is closest to the islets.

“The security situation around Japan has become even more severe, and in order to maintain peace, it is necessary to implement national security policies in a more strategic and structured manner,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“This does not in any way change Japan’s pacifist policies, which have been consistent throughout the postwar period,” the Ministry said.

Japan’s Constitution, largely written by U.S. occupation forces following Japan’s surrender in World War II, bars the nation from possessing “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential” for action other than self-defense. Under Abe’s new plan, the definition of self-defense would be expanded to include action on behalf of allies under attack.

China rattled the region earlier this month by declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea to include the disputed islets, warning that aircraft passing through the ADIZ without identifying themselves could be subject to “emergency measures.” The U.S. and Japan have mostly ignored the ADIZ.

In response to the new Japan strategy, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that “if Japan really hopes to return itself to the ranks of a ‘normal country’, it should face up to its aggression in history and cooperate with its Asian neighbors instead of angering them with rounds and rounds of unwise words and policies.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Manila for talks with Philippine officials, spent time trying to ease tensions over Japanese defense build up.

Kerry said the Japanese plan represented “the joint vision of Japan-U.S. cooperation in terms of security for the region and elsewhere. This is not a sudden response to something or anything that anybody should get particularly upset about,” Kerry said.

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.