Concerns over nation’s sustainment ability must be dispelled

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is showing a serious lesson that when a nation is invaded by another country, it will suffer tremendous damage if it is not adequately prepared.

Japan needs to appropriately respond to changes in the surrounding security environment and strengthen its defense capabilities.

The Defense Ministry has revealed that only about 60% of the necessary number of interceptor missiles for ballistic missile defense have been deployed.

While the procurement cost of interceptor missiles is rising as they have become more sophisticated, the spending for ammunition has remained at around ¥200 billion per year for the past 30 years, so the ministry said it has not been able to secure a sufficient amount of ammunition.

It is unprecedented for the defense authorities to publicly announce problems with their own capabilities. The current shortage of ammunition must be urgently corrected in order to maintain deterrence.

China has been repeatedly attempting to unilaterally change the status quo around the Nansei Islands, and North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. military can no longer play the role of “global policeman” that uses overwhelming military power.

Japan’s security policy will continue to be based on the Japan-U.S. alliance, but the alliance will not function unless Japan itself possesses sustainment, the ability to continue organized fighting in the event of an emergency.

Even if a sufficient amount of ammunition is secured, Japan will lack mobility if its storage facilities are disproportionately placed in Hokkaido. In the case of the Ground Self-Defense Force, 70% of its ammunition is concentrated in Hokkaido, a situation that is a remnant of the Cold War era. Deployment of ammunition to the Nansei Islands, where the threat is increasing, is an urgent necessity.

When the ministry opened a GSDF garrison on Miyakojima Island in Okinawa Prefecture, it also built an ammunition depot for missiles and mortar shells, but insufficient explanation to local residents led to protests and the ammunition was temporarily removed from the island.

The ministry should keep in mind that the understanding of local residents is essential when constructing important facilities.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated in the Diet that “the SDF’s sustainment ability and the amount of operable equipment are not necessarily sufficient.”

The SDF is said to tend to lack spare parts for a variety of equipment, including fighter jets and tanks, and that only a little more than 50% of the equipment is actually in operation for missions and training. This has sometimes forced the SDF to cut back on training time for its personnel.

It makes no sense if training opportunities are reduced and the skills of the personnel deteriorate. It is important for the government to raise the level of operational equipment.

The government should also make steady progress in improving the “resilience” of SDF facilities so that they will not lose their functionality in the event of being attacked. Placing major command centers underground is an issue for consideration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 6, 2022)