JUST IN: Japan Doubling Defense R&D Budget, Establishing New Railgun Project

By Stew Magnuson
Shigenori Mishima, vice commissioner and chief technology officer at the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency

Melanie Yu / NDIA photo

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Japan’s Ministry of Defense will be nearly doubling its research and development expenditures starting the next fiscal year and investing in a number of cutting edge technologies as neighbors North Korea and China become more aggressive, a senior official said March 6.

“The security environment surrounding Japan is become increasingly severe and at an unprecedented pace, with neighboring countries strengthening their military capabilities,” Shigenori Mishima, vice commissioner and chief technology officer at the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, said.

The Japanese government revised and updated three key national security documents in December and is following them with large increases in spending, he said at the Pacific Operational Science & Technology Conference organized by the National Defense Industrial Association.

The overall Ministry of Defense budget has climbed steadily over the past decade but will make a huge leap from 5.3 trillion yen in fiscal year 2022 to 6.82 trillion yen next year, a 26 percent increase. The nation is aiming to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense by 2027, he added.

Over the next five years, Japan will boost military research and development funding by four-and-a-half times current levels, which would total $26 billion, he said.

Focus areas include: standoff defense capabilities such as anti-ship missiles for island defense, an upgraded Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, a hyper velocity gliding projectile and hypersonic missiles, he said.

Defensive capabilities include a medium-range surface-to-air missile, a guided missile system to counter hypersonic vehicles and high-energy lasers and high-powered microwave radiation technology to thwart drones and swarming drones, he said.

The investment portfolio also includes the Global Combat Air Programme, a new fighter jet Japan is co-developing with the United Kingdom and Italy.

Japan will also be researching an electromagnetic railgun, a technology the U.S. Navy had invested in for years but ultimately abandoned. Railguns use electromagnetic force to launch nonexplosive projectiles. The velocity the railgun produces and the energy in which the projectiles hit their targets can cause considerable damage to ships or other targets.

After spending some $500 million over a 15-year period, the Navy abandoned railgun technology in 2021, announcing that it would concentrate its efforts on hypersonic technology instead.

Mishima said his agency intends to speed up acquisition by deploying prototypes into operations and mass-producing technologies in parallel to research and development after properly assessing risks. It wants to “drastically reduce research and development timelines,” he said.

Like U.S companies, Japan’s defense industry often has problems bridging the gap from basic research to fielding systems, also known as the “Valley of Death.” The Japanese Ministry of Defense will boost the “bridge” money it spends from $6.6 million this year to $137 million in 2023, he said.

Further, by 2024 the Ministry of Defense intends to establish a yet to be named cutting edge research agency modeled on the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Defense Innovation Unit, he said.

“It will identify technology that can quickly be integrated into future warfare,” he said.

The ministry is seeking international partnerships with allies to help develop these key technologies, he said.


Topics: Global Defense Market

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