JSDF undergoing deep structural change
Currently, the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) is undergoing some deep structural changes: Ground Central Command is to come within the remit of the Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF), while two divisions and two brigades are to be transformed into rapid deployment units.
The Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) will retain four escort flotillas (each with one helicopter destroyer and two AEGIS destroyers) and five escort divisions with other destroyers. The Air Self-Defence Force (ASDF) will increase the number of fighter squadrons at Naha Air Base in Okinawa to two, with a newly formed airborne early warning squadron with E-2C aircraft to be deployed there as well.
In December 2016, Japan approved a military budget of roughly €42.68 billion, of which approximately 2.2% is devoted to research and development, and 15.8% to procurement. The majority of spending is allocated to the GSDF (36%), followed by the MSDF (24.6%) and ASDF (23%). The main modernisation areas are: ISR, transport, C2, rapid response capabilities to attacks on remote islands (especially air and amphibious), missile defence, space and cyber defence.
The National Defence Programme Guidelines (NDPG) for 2013 revealed that, ultimately, the GSDF will have three rapid deployment divisions, four rapid deployment brigades, one armoured division, one armoured brigade, one amphibious rapid deployment brigade, one helicopter brigade, seven regional deployment units (five of divisional size and two of brigade strength), and five regiments with anti-ship guided missiles. In addition, the total number of tanks will be decreased from 400 to 300; the same number applying also to the artillery. Meanwhile, the GSDF has been developing an Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (its provisional name) based on the Western Area Infantry Regiment. The unit, whose future soldiers have already participated in the “Iron Fist” exercise in California in February 2017, alongside the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, will become active in March 2018 and be equipped with AAV-7 vehicles.