Japan Plans Defense Tech Innovation Body With 100 Staffers; Institute Modeled on Foreign Examples Like DARPA, DIU

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Defense Ministry in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

A new research institute for innovative technology development will be launched by the Defense Ministry in autumn this year with 100 staffers, according to an outline of the plan. The institute will aim to enhance the nation’s defense equipment development capabilities.

Of the planned staff members, 50 will be recruited from the outside the ministry, such as from companies and universities.

Using similar organizations overseas, such as the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as models, the ministry aims to have the new institute conduct research and development in collaborations between the public and private sectors.

The ministry has so far had different institutes separately develop defense equipment to meet the needs of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces.

In the new institute, the ministry plans to give roles as project managers in charge of designing and managing projects to talented workers from private companies and other entities.

The new institute is primarily modeled after DARPA and the Pentagon-affiliated Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

DARPA developed the internet and other essential technologies of today, and the DIU identifies private-sector technologies that can be applied to defense in places where many advanced technology companies are concentrated.

The ministry hopes the new institute, using researchers from outside as core members in DARPA-type projects, will develop breakthrough technologies that can drastically transform combat.

As an example of a practical project, the ministry anticipates the development of a technology which can detect submarines by using elementary particles. If the technology can be developed, it may become possible to detect submarines with higher sensitivity and from greater distances, compared with current methods using sound waves.

As for DIU-type projects, the ministry will have the new institute study dual-use technologies that can be utilized in both defense and civilian fields, through financial assistance to studies by companies and universities which have advanced technologies, if the technologies can contribute to the development of defense equipment.

The ministry expects such developments as production of unmanned vehicles which can operate autonomously even in the dark by combining artificial intelligence software and high-resolution image recognition methods.

Britain launched a similar research institute in 2023, and Australia is preparing to establish such an institute.

The ministry plans to proactively cooperate with Japan’s ally, the United States, and also with Britain and Australia, which Japan regards as quasi-allies, so that Japan will be able to have advantages in the competition for technological development with China and other countries.