Growing threats from China and North Korea, plus the aging of Cold War hardware, mean Japan is due for a revamping of its air power. But Tokyo’s aerospace needs are complicated by constitutional restrictions, a costly natural disaster and general economic stagnation.
‘The Air Self-Defence Force will need over the coming decade or two: a fifth-generation fighter aircraft; a new aircraft for transport and aerial refuelling; more modern helicopters; effective missile and air defences; and improved intelligence-collection assets, from an updated AWACs (radar plane) to more reliance on advanced unmanned systems and even space platforms,’ says Patrick Cronin, an analyst with the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C.
Some of these requirements are already being addressed by current acquisitions efforts. Kawasaki Heavy Industries began flight testing the twin-engine C-2 transport plane last year; 40 are planned. Boeing is working on a $100-million upgrade to the ASDF’s four E-767 radar planes. Boeing also delivered the last of four 767-based tankers last year.
Other needs haven’t been met.