Heightened Western Pacific Tensions Will Push Japan to Spend More on Defense, Says Panel

Japan needs to commit to increasing its defense spending for the long-term due to its proximity to an aggressive Russia, an ambitious China and an unpredictable North Korea armed with nuclear missiles, a senior observer of Tokyo’s security policy said this week. “Japan will continue to increase its defense budget” to at least 2 percent […]

Soldiers from the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) conduct individual and small-unit maneuver exercises during Iron Fist at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, February 6, 2019. US Marine Corps Photo

Japan needs to commit to increasing its defense spending for the long-term due to its proximity to an aggressive Russia, an ambitious China and an unpredictable North Korea armed with nuclear missiles, a senior observer of Tokyo’s security policy said this week.

“Japan will continue to increase its defense budget” to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product over the next five years, said analyst Hiroyaki Akita said an event at Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This increase will hold even if the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would fall, Akita said.

He did not expect Japan to fall back into a previous “revolving door” prime minister-era that marked its politics between 2006 and 2012, which would change Tokyo’s commitment on defense spending. The key difference is the strong support for the governing Liberal Democratic Party now and its control of both houses of the Japanese Diet.

At the same time, with the changed security challenges in Northeast Asia, Akita expected Japan to work more closely with the United States while also reaching out to the U.K., France and Vietnam for greater security cooperation.

Akita called the agreement to significantly up defense sending a major decision that “requires very strong leadership” domestically. That means focusing more on Okinawa for its proximity to China and the presence of a large number of American and Japanese military installations on the island. He added persuading the Okinawa population to go along with the increased spending and the establishment of more military infrastructure to store ammunition and missiles might be difficult.

Paying for this increase by raising taxes, issuing more bonds or cutting services is going to be a challenge, Shihoro Goto, director for geoeconomics and Indo-Pacific enterprise at the Wilson Center said.

“Japan is not alone in facing economic stressors” in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era, Goto said. Its GDP is only expected to grow 1.7 percent in the coming year while Tokyo continues having to service a large national debt. She added Japan also has an aging population needing more services but with fewer taxpayers’ to cover those costs.

Tax increases are “politically very painful,” Akita said. If they are to happen, he said the increases were not likely to be imposed on consumption items, but on income and corporate taxes.

In Japan, spending cuts are unpopular, Goto said. “Japan is a very, very generous state” when compared to the United States in its spending on health and childcare and providing for higher education.

She and Akia agreed a possible way to up defense spending, using the NATO model, was to raise budgets in ministries that foster innovation and dual-use technologies.

Complicating Tokyo’s relations with Washington currently is the CHIPS Act aimed at returning semi-conductor manufacturing to the United States and cutting off high-technology sales to Beijing, Goto said. What is not clear to Japan, Korea and Taiwan is how the new “export policy is expected to move into other key sectors” than microchips.

Goto said the act creates “a very difficult stage for the private sector.” The affected allies and partners need to have more buy-in as the policy unfolds.

The economic competition between Japan and its allies with China should not be limited to technology but expanded to “include values [and] good governance” that “could resonate with other nations,” she said.

Among the encouraging signs on Sino-Japanese relations was the establishment of a military hotline between the two nations and the creation of a maritime discussion arrangement. While not resolving major issues between the two countries over potential flashpoints like the Senkaku Islands, the two leaders said they wanted a “constructive and stable relationship.”

Akita termed Japan’s goal in its relations with China “is to achieve a cold peace.” He added, “I think China understands” that Japan is not drifting away from its alliance with the United States.

U.S. Needs to Push Allies to Prepare for a Potential Conflict with China, Panel Says

Over the next few years, the United States will likely press allies like South Korea harder to be ready for a conflict with China that may arise over Taiwan’s future, a leading scholar on global affairs at Johns Hopkins University said Tuesday. The United States will struggle to win a war with Beijing without support […]

Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Sailors wave ROK and U.S. flags during a port visit of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in Busan, Republic of Korea, Sept. 23, 2022. US Navy Photo

Over the next few years, the United States will likely press allies like South Korea harder to be ready for a conflict with China that may arise over Taiwan’s future, a leading scholar on global affairs at Johns Hopkins University said Tuesday.

The United States will struggle to win a war with Beijing without support from allies, said Hal Brands, speaking at a Wilson Center event on China, the Republic of Korea and the United States.

China’s current effort to modernize its forces should be complete in 2027 or so, while the United States continues to rely ”on a small number of bases, aircraft carriers and other large, expensive and highly vulnerable platforms,” Brands said. The United States probably does not have enough long-range, precision-strike munitions even for a short conflict.

“The bad news is the military situation is likely to get worse,” he said.

Brands said although the unity of response among European Union members, NATO and the United States came as a welcome surprise following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, what is actually needed in the case of China is to show they are willing to act together before military force is applied.

In his contribution to the center’s latest monograph, “Between the Eagle and the Dragon,” Brands wrote, “a war in which China confronts the combined military power of the United States, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan is different than one in which it confronts just Washington and Taipei. In some cases, it is a matter of strategic real estate” from India across the entire Pacific.

Allies and partners could provide needed industrial base capacity in areas from shipbuilding to ammunition production, as well as economic and technological punishment on China, he said.

Allies might also hesitate in showing their support against China if Beijing invades Taiwan because China is the largest trading partner, Brands said.

Yet, “the possibility of a coalition response is the best way to deter” an aggressive China, he said.

In his keynote address, noting that China “is critical to every single country” in the Indo-Pacific and the United States, Edgar Kagan, senior director for East Asia and Oceania at the National Security Council, said, “it’s not a zero sum game” when it comes to Washington’s competition with Beijing. Every country “has to figure out how to have better relations with China” while preserving their independence.

Using South Korea as an example, Elizabeth Economy, senior advisor for China in the Commerce Department, said there’s some interest in Seoul political circles about being more responsive when it comes to Taiwan and China’s increasing threat to re-unite the self-governing island with the mainland by force.

But that willingness to help is tempered by recalling Beijing’s response to Korea’s deployment of the American-made heater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system. China, seeing the system as a potentially offensive weapon, imposed wide-ranging embargoes on Korean manufacturers of electronics and auto manufacturers.

Ships from the U.S., Japan and Republic of Korea conducted a trilateral ballistic missile defense exercise in the Sea of Japan, on Oct. 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

Seoul is also cautious when antagonizing Beijing because China is an ally of North Korea, Seoul’s most immediate threat with large conventional forces and nuclear weapons.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, despite assuming an unprecedented third term as president and head of the Communist Party, is facing new challenges as 2022 comes to a close, said Jude Blanchette, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Xi’s most recent “Zero-Covid” lockdowns have sparked widespread public anger and protests.

The lockdowns are continuing to slow an economy that is built on exports. Many manufacturing plants are again closed to stop the pandemic’s latest surge, making it difficult for China to get its economy moving again domestically and rebuild supply chains to restore foreign trade, Blanchette said.

“It’s difficult to predict what China might do” even a year ahead, Blanchette said.

Meg Lundsbarger, a former senior official at the International Monetary Fund, said Xi and the party must adjust to China’s aging population and its needs, but she doubted Beijing’s ability to shift to a consumption-based economy that would require.

Xi and the party leadership weren’t in “a good place to navigate” these domestic concerns at the same time as foreign investors are pulling back or out of China, she added.

But Blanchette added, Xi “is not going to change his world view,” starting with insisting on domestic control and China as a global power.

Kagan saw encouraging signs in closer cooperation among Washington, Seoul and Tokyo on security and economic issues that would have been difficult to predict 10 years ago.

He saw a “real opportunity” for the United States and Korea in “aligning our technological innovation” efforts and diversification of manufacturing and the supply problems by being less reliant on China which resulted after COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions.

Japanese MoD Report on Chinese Gray Zone, Influence Operations

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations. From the report The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as […]

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations.

From the report

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as protecting the Party’s regime. Until President Xi Jinping’s military reforms, the Party exercised control over the military mainly through the PLA’s political work organizations, including the General Political Department, and political commissars. Such indirect control, however, was susceptible to communication issues and hindering the execution of joint operations, and caused widespread bribery and corruption in the PLA.

Xi Jinping’s military reforms drove the restructuring of Chinese military organizations, and in this context, the leadership of the Party has been strengthened. More emphasis is placed on direct control by the Chinese Communist Party, with focus especially on the implementation of the chairman responsibility system of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the Party committees in the military. Furthermore, military governance through laws and rules is underscored. The Party’s leadership has been reinforced not only over the PLA but also over other military organizations, and mechanisms are being developed for coordination between
the military and other governmental actors. These measures were developed also as a response to modern forms of conflict that actively use non-military means.

For influence operations, the Strategic Support Force (SSF) was established. The SSF appears not only to integrate functions related to cyber, electromagnetic spectrum, and outer space, but also to be deeply engaged in the struggle for the psychological and cognitive domain.

For gray zone operations, the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and the CCG were reorganized. The PAP was placed under the sole leadership of the CMC, while the CCG became subordinate to the PAP and in turn was also placed under the leadership of the PLA. As a result of the reorganization, the PAP specializes in maintaining public security in peacetime and contributes more easily to PLA joint operations in a contingency.

Download the document here.

JERA to Study Large-Scale Ammonia Fuel Transportation with NYK and MOL

Japanese power company JERA Co. has entered into memorandums of understanding with shipping companies NYK and MOL on the large-volume transportation of ammonia fuel to be used for power generation….

Japanese power company JERA Co. has entered into memorandums of understanding with shipping companies NYK and MOL on the large-volume transportation of ammonia fuel to be used for power generation....

Chinese, Russian Surface Action Groups Operating Near Japan; U.S., Japan Ships Exercise Nearby

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise […]

Russian Navy ships transiting near Japan.

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise ending today.

On Friday, a People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer, frigate and replenishment were sighted sailing northeast in an area 220 kilometers southwest of Miyako Island, Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense said in a news release issued Monday. Images and pennant numbers identified the PLAN ships as destroyer CNS Suzhou (132), frigate CNS Nantong (533) and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu (890), which form the 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce previously assigned to the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy escort missions there. On Saturday, the PLAN ships transited the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea, according to the release, which noted that the ships were previously sighted north of the Miyako Strait on May 19. The Japanese said Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweeper JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, shadowed the PLAN ships.

The ships of the PLAN 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce left their homebase of Zhoushan, Zhejiang on May 18 and returned on Tuesday, with the 42nd Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce of destroyer CNS Huainan (123), frigate CNS Rizhao (598) and replenishment ship CNS Kekexilihu (968) now on station in the Gulf of Aden carrying out the PLAN anti-piracy deployment that has been ongoing since the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, Japan sighted five Russian Navy ships – a cruiser, destroyer, two replenishment ships and a rescue tugboat – on Sunday sailing northeast in an area 80 kilometers south of Yonaguni Island, the JSO said in a second news release issued Monday. Images and information in the release identified the cruiser as RFS Varyag (011), the destroyer as RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and one of the replenishment ships as Boris Butoma and an unidentified Dubna-class replenishment ship. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma left their homeport of Vladivostok on Dec. 29, 2021 for an extended deployment. The ships conducted a trilateral exercise with the PLAN and Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman in January before proceeding to the Mediterranean, where they operated until late October.

Chinese warships underway off Japan

The five Russian ships subsequently sailed northeast between Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island into the East China Sea while JMSDF replenishment ship JS Towada (AOE-422) and a P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitored the Russian ships, according to the JSO. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma had been sighted traveling southwest through the Tsushima Strait on Dec. 29 last year, the release noted.

From morning until afternoon on Monday, a Chinese BZK-005 unmanned air vehicle, a Y-9 electronic intelligence aircraft and a Y-9 maritime patrol aircraft flew in separately from the East China Sea and passed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean, the JSO said in a third news release. After reaching an area east of Nawamoto Island, the aircraft turned around and flew back through the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea. Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response to monitor these flights.

Meanwhile the nations of the Quad grouping – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – wrapped up Exercise Malabar on Tuesday. The drills started on Nov. 8 and took place in the sea and airspace south of Japan’s Kanto region on the main island of Honshu. Japan sent destroyer helicopter carrier JS Hyuga (DDH-181); destroyers JS Takanami (DD-110) and JS Shiranui (DD-120); landing ship tank JS Kunisaki (LST-4003); replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) and a submarine; along with a JMSDF P-1 MPA, a UP-3D Electronic Warfare trainer and the JMSDF Special Boarding Unit. The Indian Navy sent frigate INS Shivalik (F47) and corvette INS Kamorta (P28), along with a P-8I MPA and the Marine Commandoes unit. The U.S. sent carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69), a P-8A Poseidon MPA and Navy Special Warfare forces. Australia sent HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304) and submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG74), along with a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon.

Reagan and Chancellorsville are now participating in Exercise Keen Sword 23, which began on Thursday and will continue in Japan through Saturday. A total of 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from Japan and the United States, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are involved in the drills. A complete list of ships taking part in the exercise has not been released, but the following ships from the countries involved are known to be taking part based on released images and reports:

USS Milius (DDG-69), front, steams in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship, JS Takanami (DDG-110), Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) and Indian Navy ship INS Kamorta (P 28) during Exercise Malabar 2022, in the Philippine Sea on Nov. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

Royal Australian Navy (RAN):
Destroyer

  • HMAS Hobart (DDG39)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN):
Frigates

  • HMCS Vancouver (FFH331)
  • HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338)

JMSDF:
Destroyer helicopter carrier

  • JS Izumo (DDH-183)

Destroyers

  • JS Atago (DDG-177)
  • JS Ashigara (DDG-178)
  • JS Setogiri (DD-156)
  • JS Yamagiri (DD-152)

Landing ship tanks

  • JS Shimokita (LST-4002)
  • JS Kunisaki (LST-4003)

Unidentified Submarine

U.K. Royal Navy (RN):
Offshore patrol vessel

  • HMS Spey (P234)

U.S. Navy:
Carrier

  • USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

Cruiser

  • USS Chancellorsville (CG-62)

Destroyer

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65)

Amphibious transport dock ship

  • USS New Orleans (LPD-18)

Replenishment ship

  • USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204)

U.S. Pacific Allies Want to Work Together to Blunt Chinese Nuclear Threat

As China builds up its nuclear weapons arsenal and expands its conventional military forces, United States allies in the Pacific are asking Washington for an extended deterrence alliance in the region, three security experts said Wednesday. Toshi Yoshihara, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment, said China has played up the idea […]

Chinese DF-41 missiles in 2020.

As China builds up its nuclear weapons arsenal and expands its conventional military forces, United States allies in the Pacific are asking Washington for an extended deterrence alliance in the region, three security experts said Wednesday.

Toshi Yoshihara, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment, said China has played up the idea that extended deterrence “tends to be very fragile” when a crisis arises. Beijing believes it could split apart allies before a conflict with the threat of using theater nuclear weapons he said.

This immediate threat from China to use nuclear weapons against U.S. allies – like Japan and the Republic of Korea – in Northeast Asia has caused Tokyo and Seoul to consider new security arrangements, Yoshihara said. Efforts to reposition nuclear weapons in the region and drafting new agreements on employment that were once “unthinkable” could now be possible.

There is no treaty arrangement like NATO in the Indo-Pacific that has a consultative process for the use of nuclear weapons, the panelists noted.

Russia has used this same threat of using theater nuclear weapons since 2014 and raised the possibility again following major setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine. Both Moscow and Beijing have included this option in publicly announced military doctrine.

China is building hundreds of new missile silos in the western part of the country, fielding road mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, developing a fleet of new strategic bombers with improved long-range strike capabilities and putting to sea additional ballistic missile submarines, Yoshihara noted. These developments mark “a change in tone” in what analysts believed Beijing’s ambitions were as late as 2010.

Gone is the “mean and effective force” of sea- and land-based nuclear weapons to deter attack, replaced with a force fitting with President Xi Jinping’s goal of China possessing “a world-class military” that is capable of acting regionally and globally.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation online event, Franklin Miller, a principal at the Scowcroft Group, described China’s nuclear build-up “as highly impressive.” He noted that the build-up happened as Beijing probed western resolve over its building of artificial islands in the South China Sea, territorial claims across the Indo-Pacific, harassment of neighbors like Taiwan and Vietnam and provocative maritime activities around the Japanese Senkaku Islands.

“What is the aim of this build-up” at all levels of range and across the triad, he asked rhetorically.

Miller and the others said the major consequence of what is often called the “Chinese nuclear breakout” is that “we must be thinking of deterring Russia and China simultaneously,” not consecutively. The question the U.S. must answer is “can we cover the targets Russia and China hold most dear” to deter the two nations.

When answering that question, “we need to have a sense of urgency” that includes pursuing missile defense for Guam, potentially expanding the Australia United Kingdom United States (AUKUS) technology transfer agreement to include Japan and South Korea, and rebuilding America’s own conventional weapons arsenal.

Brad Roberts, former deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile and defense policy, said it also means Washington needs to handle threats in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.

Several times during the discussion, Russia’s and China’s previous declaration of a “no limits” partnership came up as a possibility that could set off simultaneous crises. But what the partnership actually means after the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is unclear.

“We’re going to be asking more [of] allies; they’re going to be asking more of us” when it comes to deterrence, he said.

Roberts said the nuclear posture the United States has now reflects the end of the Cold War. “That posture is just of alignment” with the changed circumstances globally. In addition to working more closely with allies, he said Washington’s current commitment to rebuilding the U.S. nuclear triad is actually a replacement strategy rather than a modernization one.

On the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, which the Biden administration canceled, the panelists agreed it was an option that had value. Yoshihara said that in his meetings with Japanese officials, they regularly asked why the administration canceled the program.

Other options that panelists offered to address an assurance and deterrence gap without trying to match Moscow and Beijing weapon for weapon are to ensure all bombers, including the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, are capable of carrying long-range stand-off missiles, build more B-21s than projected and extend the construction of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

Roberts stressed that while militaries may have a doctrine for how to use theater nuclear weapons during a crisis, there remains a “question of political engagement” on their employment. “This is a new problem, how do we deter Xi and [Vladimir] Putin?” He added, “Interestingly, Putin has backed down recently” from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Japan Hosts Multilateral Display Of Naval Unity Amid East Asia Tension

By Tim Kelly YOKOSUKA, Japan, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Japan hosted its first international fleet review for seven years on Sunday with ships from 12 other nations in a show of unity…

By Tim Kelly YOKOSUKA, Japan, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Japan hosted its first international fleet review for seven years on Sunday with ships from 12 other nations in a show of unity...

U.S. and Japan Prepare for Joint Exercise; U.S. Wraps up Drills with Allies in South China Sea

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today. Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according […]

U.S. Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 prepare to off-load ammunition from a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Resolute Dragon 22 on Camp Betsukai, Hokkaido, Japan, Oct. 8, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today.

Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a Friday news release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Ministry of Defense.

The exercise will take place from Nov. 10-19 at Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. Forces Japan facilities, the waters and airspace of Japan, on Tsutara Island, which lies west of Nagasaki, and on the southern islands of Amami Oshima and Tokonushima. It will include live-fire drills and focus on a wide-range of operations, including amphibious, ground, maritime, air and working within the space and cyber domains.

The exercise is aimed at improving interoperability between Japan and the U.S. Japan will send 26,000 personnel, 20 ships and 250 aircraft from across the JSDF, while the U.S. will send 10,000 personnel, 10 ships and 120 aircraft from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units in the Indo-Pacific and Japan, in addition to personnel from Space Force.

Canada will participate with two ships – HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) – that have been operating in the region since participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise and an aircraft.

Both ships are deployed to the Indo-Pacific under Operation Projection, the Canadian Armed Forces presence operations in the region, with Vancouver also tasked to sail around Japan under Operation Neon, which covers Canada’s contribution to maritime and aerial surveillance operations to enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Australia will participate with a single ship and a single aircraft, while the United Kingdom will send either offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar (P233) or HMS Spey (P234), both of which are deployed in the region. Observers from Australia, Canada, France, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom and NATO have been invited to the exercise.

Keen Sword follows an extensive series of activities between the U.S. and its partners in the region, with the United States Marine Corps recently wrapping up bilateral exercise Kamandag 6 in the Philippines and Resolute Dragon 22 in Japan. The multilateral exercise known as Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Samasama Lumbas in the Sulu Sea – hosted by the Philippines, Australia and United States – concluded on Tuesday.

U.S. Navy Sailors with Naval Beach Unit Seven park a landing craft, utility during a rehearsal for a bilateral amphibious landing at Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command in Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

“Participating units included USS Benfold, USNS Dahl (T-AKR-312) and USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 11, Patrol Squadron 45, Helicopter Maritime Squadron-51, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), and approximately 1,600 Marines and Sailors from across III MEF including forces from 3d Marine Division, 12th Marines, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and 3d Marine Logistics Group partnered with 1,400 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel from the Northern Army, 2nd Division, during Resolute Dragon 22,” the Navy said in a news release.

During Resolute Dragon 22, Benfold worked with both the U.S. Marine Corps high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles, according to the release.

Kamandag 6 included participation from 1,900 U.S. Marines, 530 Philippine Marines and 100 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines, who together with 30 personnel from the JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade participated in some portions of the exercise.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, MV-22B Ospreys, AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters and KC-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft all participated in the drills. Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) and expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) also jointed for the exercise. Tripoli and New Orleans have 31st Marine Expeditionary Units embarked.

Sailors handle a phone and distance line aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during a replenishment-at- sea (RAS) with USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) Oct. 16, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

On Tuesday, MTA Samasama Lumbas, which began on Oct. 11, concluded its at-sea phase. The exercise was formerly two separate bilateral exercises – exercise Samasama between the Philippine Navy and the U.S. Navy and exercise Lumbas between the Philippine Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The two exercises were held simultaneously together this year for the first time.

Aircraft involved in the subject matter expert exchange engagement phase included Philippine Navy Beechcraft C-90, French Navy Falcon 2000 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force US-2 seaplane and a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The JMSDF US-2 forms the 3rd Air Unit of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22). The French Navy Falcon 2000 is now operating at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, until early November, conducting maritime surveillance operations in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea, according to a Japan Ministry of Defense statement.

The sea phase included two interoperability iterations, with the first phase focused on search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief operations with the Philippine Navy, JMSDF, the United Kingdom Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, with embarked observers from the U.K. Royal Navy, Royal Brunei Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Malaysian Navy. Ships involved in this phase included Philippine Navy frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), RN OPV HMS Spey (P234), RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39) and replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304), while aircraft participation featured the Philippine Navy C90 and JMSDF US-2.

The Philippine Navy also performed a replenishment at sea between Jose Rizal and Stalwart, in which 30,000 liters of fuel were transferred to Jose Rizal. The Philippine Navy said it had not conducted an underway replenishment in a long time.

The second phase, carried out on Tuesday, involved the Philippine Navy, RAN and U.S. Navy in warfighting interoperability exercises, with destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) joining Jose Rizal, Hobart and Stalwart. During the anti-submarine warfare portion of the exercise, Hobart released an Expendable Mobile Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Training Target (EMATT) that served as a submerged target for participating ships to identify and locate.

Kirisame is the second surface unit of IPD22. The first unit, which includes helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), completed its part of IPD22 when it returned to Japan on Oct. 5. Kirisame is expected to return to Japan later this month.

Prior to Samasama Lumbas, Kirisame conducted the Noble Mist 22 exercise from Oct. 4-8 in the South China Sea with U.S. Navy destroyers Milius and USS Higgins (DDG-76), RAN destroyer Hobart, frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship Stalwart, RCN frigate HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) and U.S Coast Guard cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757). The activities between the U.S, Australia, Canada and Japan in the South China Sea appeared to be a continuous series of engagements until Monday, when the U.S. Navy said it finished the drills.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts a trilateral training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Murusame-class destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), the Royal Australian Navy Supply-class auxiliary replenishment oiler HMAS Stalwart (A304), and the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) while operating in the South China Sea, Oct. 07. U.S. Navy Photo

“This exercise builds on the previous bilateral and trilateral exercises from recent months conducted in the South China Sea. Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted integrated operations designed to increase the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency. Integrated events included surface, subsurface, and air defense exercises that included Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) from several participating nations,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Hobart, Arunta and Stalwart are currently double-tasked on a regional presence deployment for Australia and form part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 (IPE22), Australia’s annual regional engagement deployment. The main task group of IPE22 includes landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01) and frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150), which left Darwin on Oct. 13 and are now headed to Sri Lanka to begin their first IPE22 engagement.

In other developments, New Zealand Navy replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa is headed to Busan, Republic of Korea after concluding a visit at RMN Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Aotearoa will replenish partner nation ships during her passage to Busan, which included replenishing Milius and Midgett in the South China Sea on Oct. 11 and more recently amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

Japan Set to Buy SM-6s in Potential $450M Deal, Says State Deptartment

Japan is set to be the first country after the United States to field the Standard Missile 6 as part of a proposed $450 million arms package, according to a State Department notification to Congress. According to the Thursday notification, Japan was conditionally approved to buy up to 32 of the Raytheon-built SM-6 Block Is, […]

SM-6 launches from guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones on Aug. 29, 2017. MDA Photo

Japan is set to be the first country after the United States to field the Standard Missile 6 as part of a proposed $450 million arms package, according to a State Department notification to Congress.

According to the Thursday notification, Japan was conditionally approved to buy up to 32 of the Raytheon-built SM-6 Block Is, pending congressional approval.

“The proposed sale will improve Japan’s Air Defense and Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities against potential adversaries in the region. It will also provide the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance with the latest and most advanced capabilities, reducing Japan’s reliance on U.S. Forces for the defense of Japan and further improving U.S.-Japan military interoperability. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces,” reads the notification.

The notification follows a 2017 decision from the Pentagon that conditionally approved Japan, South Korea and Australia to buy the missiles, reported USNI News at the time.

All three countries field guided-missile warships that are outfitted with Baseline 9 of the Aegis Combat System. Baseline 9 allows the ships to input targeting information into the SM-6 from another ship or aircraft rather than a ship’s own sensors.

Australia’s three Hobart-class guided-missile destroyers, Japan’s two Atago-class and two Maya-class destroyers and three planned South Korean Sejong the Great-class destroyers feature Baseline 9.

The SM-6 features three different modes – anti-air warfare, anti-surface and a limited ballistic missile defense capability – but not all the features may be available to all three countries, USNI News understands.

In particular, the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency have done several tests to prove the missile’s effectiveness against ballistic missiles in the terminal phase.

Last year, the MDA’s program executive officer for Aegis ballistic missile defense at the time, Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, called the SM-6 “our leading defense capability for hypersonic missile defense.”

Japanese destroyers also field the SM-3 designed for ballistic missile defense. Earlier this year, Japan indicated it would build two 20,000 warships designed specifically for ballistic missile defense missions, USNI News reported last month.

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Deployment Prompted Record Japanese Fighter Scrambles

In a six-month period from April to September, Japanese fighters scrambled 446 times to intercept threatening aircraft from China and Russia, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Many of the aircraft intercepted belonged to the air wing embarked on the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16). The Japan Air Self-Defense Force […]

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 20, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

In a six-month period from April to September, Japanese fighters scrambled 446 times to intercept threatening aircraft from China and Russia, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
Many of the aircraft intercepted belonged to the air wing embarked on the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16).

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled its fighter aircraft 446 times in the first half of the 2022 Japanese fiscal year, in contrast to 390 scrambles in the same period last year, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) in the Ministry of Defense reported on Friday.

The bulk of the scrambles happened because of Chinese aircraft activities, which accounted for 340 scrambles, or 76 percent of the overall total. The scrambles against Chinese aircraft in the first half of FY 2022 also increased by 59 from FY 2021’s total of 281 in the same period.

Flight paths of Chinese and Russian fighters that prompted intercepts from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Japanese MoD Image

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said in a press conference last week that the number of scrambles against Chinese aircraft was relatively high, even compared to recent years, and that the Defense Ministry will continue to closely monitor the activities of Chinese aircraft.

Russia accounted for 95 scrambles for the first half of FY 2022, down from a total of 102 in the first half of FY 2021, The remaining 11 scrambles for the first half of FY 2022 were grouped together as others, with no details given.

In the appendix of the release, the JSO listed 20 specific days with events that caused JASDF aircraft to scramble. Eleven of those days had scrambles in response to J-15 fighter aircraft launched from Liaoning from May 3 to May 15. The Liaoning Carrier Strike Group was conducting drills around Japan in that period, with the then Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi saying at the time that fighters and helicopters from Liaoning launched more than 100 times around Japan so far. The carrier was mostly operating near the disputed Senkaku Islands near Taiwan on the edge of the South China Sea at the time.

Russia was listed for only two days. One of the days was May 24, when a joint Russian-Chinese bomber flight by four Chinese H-6 bombers and 2 Russian Tu-95 bombers flew from the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and into the Pacific Ocean before returning the same way. On the same day a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane flew over the Sea of Japan. The second instance was on June 7, when an estimated four Russian aircraft flew over the Sea of Japan. The remaining seven specific days included a mix of Chinese bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and drone flights.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

The breakdown of scrambles per JASDF Air Districts for the first half of FY 2022 was 70 for the Northern Air District, 9 for the Central Air District, 58 for the Western Air District and 309 for the Southwest Air District, according to the JSO release. A map of flight patterns of Chinese and Russian aircraft showed Chinese aircraft mainly operating around Southwest Japan, near the disputed Senkaku Islands administered by Japan, and flying over the Miyako Strait, while Russian aircraft flew north of Japan, along the Sea of Japan, in the southwest and flying over the Miyako Strait.

Russian and Chinese ships transited Japanese straits in the past week, with the JSO issuing a news release last week saying that a PLAN destroyer was sighted sailing south on Oct. 10 in an area 105 miles north of Miyako Island. Japan identified that PLAN ship as CNS Taiyuan (131). The destroyer subsequently sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Inazuma (DD-105), replenishment ship JS Omi (AOE-426), a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base, Kyushu, and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa shadowed the PLAN ship, the release added.

Meanwhile, on Friday the JSO issued a news release that said a Russian corvette and a Gorin-class tugboat were sighted on Thursday sailing west in an area 100 miles east of Cape Soya. The hull number and image provided identified the corvette as RFS MPK-82 (375). The two Russian ships then sailed west through La Pérouse Strait while JMSDF fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 2 operating from JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu, monitored.