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21 Dec 20. Japan releases record-high budget, but not all programs made the cut. Japan’s defense budget for the next fiscal year will set a record high for the seventh year running, although the approved figure is still lower than that requested by the Defense Ministry.
The country’s Finance Ministry approved a budget of $51.5bn for the Defense Ministry, which is $3.5bn lower that the Defense Ministry requested in September.
Funds expected to upgrade Japan’s fleet of fighter jets were removed as part of the reduction. Specifically, the request for $205m to upgrade the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-15J Eagle interceptors was cut in full. The upgrade would have seen the interceptors get new radars and mission computers, and equipped with standoff land-attack missiles. But local media reports said the escalating costs of nonrecurring engineering work prompted a rethink of the program.
Japan requested and received the U.S State Department’s approval for the upgrade of up to 98 F-15Js for an estimated cost of up to $4.5bn. The work would have been carried out by F-15 manufacturer Boeing in conjunction with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the Japanese jets under license in the 1980s.
Plans to buy two more Kawasaki C-2 airlifters and 25 wheeled Type 16 combat vehicles were also impacted, with the adjusted budget now allocating funds for only one C-2 and 22 Type 16.
However, plans for Japan to acquire four more Lockheed Martin F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing jets and two F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing jets over the next fiscal year will go ahead.
Japan has an eventual requirement for 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs, which makes it potentially the biggest operator of the Joint Strike Fighter outside of the United States. The country announced earlier this week that it selected Lockheed Martin to partner with local industry in the development of a next-generation fighter jet.
The approved budget also allocates $323m to increase the range of the indigenous truck-launched Type 12 anti-ship missile, with Japan seeking to eventually use the missile from aircraft and ships to strike naval targets from standoff distances.
Budget documents also confirmed Japan is conducting a feasibility study on building two more destroyers fitted with the Aegis combat system and radars to beef up ballistic missile defense. The move follows the decision to cancel plans to build two Aegis Ashore systems on Japanese soil due to the danger of boosters from the missile interceptors falling onto populated areas.
Previous local media reports said the proposed destroyers would use the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-7(V)1 radar, which was also selected by Japan for the canceled Aegis Ashore systems. The budget is for the forthcoming Japanese fiscal year, which starts April 1, 2021. (Source: Defense News)
18 Dec 20. Saudi Arabia cuts defence spending. Saudi Arabia will cut its defence budget for 2021 by 3.8% to SAR175bn (USD46.62bn), marking a continued decline in the country’s defence spending, according to budget documentation released on 16 December.
Overall government spending was reduced to SAR990bn, down 2.94% year-on-year. Government revenues are anticipated to be SAR849bn, creating a budget deficit of SAR141bn, or 4.9% of GDP. Defence expenditure as a percentage of public expenditure is expected to remain relatively stable in nominal terms at 17.68%. Defence spending as a proportion of GDP is also forecast to decline from 7.04% in 2020 to 5.81% in 2021, a level not seen since 2013, as the overall budget is also reduced to 2014 levels.
Budget information provided under the reporting line of “military sector” covers 19 government bodies including the Saudi Armed forces, Royal Guard, defence research and development, military training and development, as well as military health services and cities and bases.
Key project achievements outlined this year included the initiation of the first phase of construction for facilities at the King Salman Airbase, implementing the first phase of the relocation and establishing the King Faisal Air Academy, setting a 10-year development plan as part of the overall development of the Ministry of the National Guard, and continuing to aim for the localisation of 50% of defence procurement expenditure under Vision 2030.
Aims for 2021 include completing the King Salman Airbase and relocation of the King Faisal Air Academy, continued capacity building for the branches of the military, and the ongoing implementation of the development plan for the Ministry of Defence. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Dec 20. China is buying land around Japanese military bases. Japan is becoming concerned about China buying land near its defence installations as it seeks to join the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
The Japanese government is planning to improve the security of military secrets and gain membership of the group that includes, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Nikkei, the daily newspaper, reports that the government plans to introduce laws that will allow officials to examine the ownership of land close to sensitive sites and investigate the purposes to which it is being put. The property will include Japanese and US military bases and nuclear reactors.
There is concern about land sales to foreigners, particularly Chinese companies. The potential for land to be used for espionage will be investigated. A similar debate was held in 2013 when a South Korean company bought land near a Japanese naval base on the island of Tsushima, which is in a strategic position 34 miles from the South Korean coast. Despite their rivalry and frequently sour relations, Japan and South Korea are US allies and conflict between the two is hard to imagine.
As China’s economy booms, more of its wealthy citizens are buying property in Japan, mostly for investment and leisure, such as skiing. In 2018 Chinese companies bought some 6,000 acres of forest and 10,000 acres of land for solar power generation in the northern island of Hokkaido.
Many more acquisitions must have gone unreported. Local politicians have expressed concern about purchases close to the island’s biggest airport, Chitose, where the air force also has a base.
In the summer, Taro Kono, who was the defence minister, said that Tokyo wanted to join Five Eyes. “These countries share the same values,” he said. “Japan can get closer even to the extent of it being called the Six Eyes.”
Existing members have expressed doubts about the security of secrets shared with Japan, particularly after leaks of information to suspected Russian and Chinese agents.
A report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said, however, that “the United States and Japan should make serious efforts to move toward a Six Eyes network”. Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state and one of the authors, said: “The difficulties with moving to a Six Eyes are almost entirely in Japan to come up with a process in which you can appropriately share intel with a very limited number of members [of the Japanese parliament].”
In America, members of Congress receive intelligence briefings under strict confidentiality. (Source: The Times)
15 Dec 20. Taiwan sees role as arms supplier for West as launches new warship. Taiwan may become a supplier of weapons to Western democracies, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, praising the island’s ramped up weapons-design ability as she launched an advanced, missile-laden warship and commissioned a new minelayer.
Tsai has made boosting the defence of the Chinese-claimed island a priority in the face of a growing military challenge from Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring democratic Taiwan under its control.
While Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items like new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is Tsai’s next focus, with submarines in production and the Tuesday launch of the first of a fleet of highly manoeuvrable stealth corvettes.
The new Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, a prototype of which is already in operation, has been dubbed by Taiwan’s navy the “aircraft carrier killer” due to its complement of anti-ship missiles. It can also carry Sky Sword anti-aircraft missiles.
Speaking in the eastern port city of Suao for the launch of the Ta Chiang, the first mass production ship of the Tuo Chiang-class, Tsai said the vessel and the new minelayer would deter attacks and showcased Taiwan’s research and development ability.
“We have the determination and capability to complete the task of building our own ships, letting the world see our defence research and development energy,” Tsai said.
“In the future, we may also become a supply source of related equipment and components in Western democracies, driving the upgrading of the defence industry,” she said.
The United States is Taiwan’s main foreign source of weapons. Most countries shy away from arming the island, wary of angering Beijing and loosing valuable commercial contracts with the world’s second-largest economy.
Tsai, re-elected in a landslide in January on a vow to stand up to China, has championed the concept of “asymmetric warfare”, focusing on high-tech, mobile weapons designed to make any Chinese attack as difficult as possible. She has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible. (Source: Reuters)
14 Dec 20. Report estimates Chinese nuclear stockpile at 350 warheads. A paper published by the Chicago, Illinois-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has estimated that China has 350 nuclear warheads, significantly more than that estimated by the U.S. Defense Department.
The report, written by Hans Kristensen, the director at the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, a research associate at FAS, arrived at the number by counting both operational warheads and newer weapons “still in development.”
These weapons include hypersonic missiles, silo-based and road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, and their submarine-launched equivalents, bringing the total number of nuclear warheads to more that the “low 200s” estimated by the Pentagon in its 2020 report on China’s military.
The think tank’s report also said an estimated 272 of the 350 warheads in the People’s Liberation Army are operational. That estimate includes 204 land-based missile warheads, 48 submarine-launched warheads and 20 aircraft-delivered gravity bombs.
The latter mission had been dormant for a while, although it has recently been reconstituted with China said to be developing an air-launched ballistic missile with a possible nuclear capability. A Chinese Xi’an H-6 bomber was recently seen carrying what is believed to be a mock-up of a hypersonic boost-glide missile, although its development status is unclear.
The estimate of 350 nuclear warheads does not include the suspected air-launched ballistic/hypersonic missile, nor does it include the multiple, independent warheads that will be fitted on the DF-5C ICBM, potentially further increasing the size of China’s nuclear stockpile even after accounting for the retirement of older systems.
Nevertheless, the report noted that the size of the Chinese nuclear stockpile is still significantly below that of the United States and Russia, which have thousands of nuclear weapons in their respective stockpiles. The authors wrote that claims by the Trump administration’s special envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, that China is striving for a form of “nuclear parity” with the U.S. and Russia “appears to have little basis in reality.”
It also added that China has traditionally maintained a low alert level for its nuclear forces, with most warheads at a central storage facility and smaller numbers kept in regional equivalents. The Pentagon concurs with this assessment, adding that launchers, missiles and warheads are kept separate, although it added that PLA Rocket Force brigades conduct “combat readiness duty” and “high alert duty” drills, which are believed to include “assigning a missile battalion to be ready to launch, and rotating to standby positions as much as monthly for unspecified periods of time.”
China refers to its nuclear posture as at a “moderate state of alert,” with the report suggesting that in peacetime this “might involve designated units to be deployed in high combat-ready condition with nuclear warheads in nearby storage sites under control of the Central Military Commission that could be released to the unit quickly if necessary.” (Source: Defense News)
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