Home » Aviation » Planned Japanese Self Defense Force Aircraft Buys, Destroyer Upgrades Could Tie Into U.S. Navy’s Networked Battle Force


Planned Japanese Self Defense Force Aircraft Buys, Destroyer Upgrades Could Tie Into U.S. Navy’s Networked Battle Force

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) guided-missile defense destroyer JDS Atago (DDG-177) maneuvers with other JMDSF and U.S. Navy ships belonging to the USS George Washington carrier strike group in 2011. US Navy Photo

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) guided-missile defense destroyer JDS Atago (DDG-177) maneuvers with other JMDSF and U.S. Navy ships belonging to the USS George Washington carrier strike group in 2011. US Navy Photo

Changes in Japan’s defense posture, pending aircraft buys from the U.S. and planned combat system modification to Japanese ships will give the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) the practical and political ability to fight as a part of the U.S. Navy’s new networked carrier strike group concept — which would expand the lethal power and range of both forces, USNI News has learned.

Last week, the State Department notified Congress of a potential $1.7 billion foreign military sales (FMS) case for Japan to buy four Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye information surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).

In late May, the Pentagon announced a $70 million contract to Lockheed Martin to upgrade the Aegis combat system on its two Atago-class destroyers to the so-called Baseline 9 standard that would allow the two ships to simultaneously to target and track aircraft and ballistic missiles.

In 2011, Japan selected the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as its next generation fighter.

In the U.S. Navy, E-2Ds, JSFs and Baseline 9 Aegis destroyers and cruisers are a key elements in the service’s emerging Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air concept (NIFC-CA pronounced: nifk-kah).

A NIFC-CA capable carrier strike group would allow — for example — a Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to provide targeting information to a guided missile destroyer or cruiser’s Aegis combat system or Boeing F/A-18E/F fighters for a threat well outside the range of onboard sensors.

An E-2D Hawkeye assigned to the Tiger Tails of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 flies over Naval Station Norfolk on March 20, 2014.

An E-2D Hawkeye assigned to the Tiger Tails of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 flies over Naval Station Norfolk on March 20, 2014.

The concept also plans to use the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to route targeting data to E-2Ds and then to the rest of the CSG and the carrier air wing

While the U.S. has started fielding the modifications to the Aegis combat system and E-2Ds and with the new aircraft buys and ship modifications Japan’s assets could easily be folded into the U.S. concept — technically, several sources told USNI News.

Politically, recent changes in the U.S. and Japanese defense compact would allow the JSDF to work with the U.S. Navy in the more complex NIFC-CA concept.

Following last year’s reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution, the U.S. and Japan revised the so-called Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation which gave greater freedom to how Japan could use its armed forces.

“The Self-Defense Forces and the United States Armed Forces will provide mutual protection of each other’s assets, as appropriate, if engaged in activities that contribute to the defense of Japan in a cooperative manner,” read the new guidelines.

The change and the purchase of equipment that could integrate with the U.S. is an exception to other allies who have shirked increases in defense spending, Eric Wertheim author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World told USNI News last week.

“I think this is a strong sign showing the strengthening bonds of the US-Japanese alliance and the seriousness with which Japan takes its self defense responsibilities,” he said.
“This can be seen most notably in Japan’s recent approval of collective defense measures, but is also demonstrated by their continued military investment and acquisition programs such as the SM-3 anti-ballistic missile, Aegis destroyers and now their apparent interest in the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.”

While Japan destroyers and E-2Ds could provide targeting data for U.S. ships, it’s unclear if Japan will purchase any Raytheon SM-6 missiles for its destroyers — a key component in the offensive side of NIFC-CA.

  • Ole Salt 1

    This is good news as Japan is a strong ally of the USA. The Japanese defense capabilities will have added advantages from the purchase of these high-tech and sophisticated military assets (Ships & Aircraft) from the USA. Japan has also begun offering and marketing its defense equipment to militaries of some Southeast Asian countries and Australia. This new development will be a welcome move. The potential of hostilities arising in the South China Sea have increased, and the aggrieved countries need to defend themselves from any blatant aggression.

  • Ctrot

    We’ve come a long way since 1945.

    • Ruckweiler

      Ctrot:
      Got to tell you that the WWII Pacific veterans are probably THE most shocked at the possibility of joint operations with the Japanese. You’re correct that we’ve come a looong way since ’45.

      • Ctrot

        I would, but my US Navy WWII Pacific Theater veteran father passed away in 2002.

        Or I would ask his cousin, but he was lost in the sinking of USS Indianapolis.

        So yeah, I know a thing or two about Pacific Veterans. It took my father until 1979 to actually buy a Japanese car, but he understood the new reality in which the Japanese were no longer our enemies. Quite a big step for a man who, during the war when he had free postage privileges, wrote “The Japs Will Pay” in place of a postage stamp on his letters home.

  • PolicyWonk

    The article says the JSDF is buying F-35A’s, but then mentions integration between the E-2D’s and F-35C’s.

    I would’ve thought that given Japan’s acquisition of “helicopter destroyers”, and the problems w/r/t island possessions that are disputed by the Chinese, that F-35B’s might be part of the overall solution, due to their ability to takeoff/land in restricted environments, and in a pinch, take-off and land from their “helicopter destroyers”.

    • Secundius

      @ PolicyWonk.

      The Japanese also want the F/AV-35B’s and MV-22C’s, too. But a Indigenous Productions, they don’t want to be a Number on a Meal Ticket. Waiting for the Number to be Called…

      • PolicyWonk

        Hmmm. I didn’t think they wanted them in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile to ramp up local production.

        OTOH, it would be ironic if they ramped up V-22 production facilities on Okinawa!

  • Curtis Conway

    “…it’s unclear if Japan will purchase any Raytheon SM-6 missiles for its destroyers — a key component in the offensive side of NIFC-CA.”

    The Japanese need to add their manufacturing expertise, capability, and capacity to the equation under licence. South Korea should probably join this team as well.

    • Secundius

      @ Curtis Conway.

      As of 3 June 2015, Japan is quite content with their SM-2’s and SM-3. And have NO interest in upgrading to SM-6, standard’s (no pun intended)…

      • Curtis Conway

        At some point in the (probably near) future we will wish we had more than just assembly lines in the US making SM-2, SM-3, and SM-6.

        • Secundius

          @ Curtis Conway.

          At Some Point MAYBE, But as of Right NOW. Their Just Not Interested…

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