A Type 16 mobile combat vehicle fires ammunition during an annual live fire exercise at Japan Ground Self-Force's training grounds near Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Saturday. Photo: Akio Kon/Pool via AP
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Ground Self Defense Forces conduct live fire drill near Mt Fuji

28 Comments

Japan's Ground Self Defense Forces on Saturday held a live-fire drill at training grounds near Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The annual exercise, held since 1961, comes as the government moves to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces and boost the defense budget.

It is usually held in August but because the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed to this year, the event was moved up to May, as it was last year. About 3,100 GSDF personnel participated, using 45 tanks and armored vehicles, and 54 pieces of artillery, About 43 tons of live ammunition worth 780 million yen were used, the defense ministry said.

Held against the backdrop of Mt Fuji, a wide array of aircraft, artillery, tanks and helicopters fired on targets. The ScanEagle, a small, long-endurance, low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, was used for the first time.

The scenario was to prevent enemy forces from taking one of Japan’s southern islands.

The exercises are the biggest event staged by the Ground Self-Defense Forces each year. Members of the public, chosen by lottery, are usually invited to watch the drills, but because of the coronavirus, no spectators were invited this year. However, the drill was live-streamed on YouTube.

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Members of the Ground Self-Defense Force rappel down from a CH47J helicopter during Saturday's live fire exercise. Photo: Akio Kon/Pool via AP
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28 Comments
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The annual exercise, held since 1961, comes as the government moves to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces and boost the defense budget.

Is it a coincidence that the grandchildren of WWII leaders are now in positions of power and want to “expand” the role of the SDF and increase its budget?

-12 ( +9 / -21 )

Good! Our men need the training.

3 ( +16 / -13 )

"Is it a coincidence that the grandchildren of WWII leaders are now in positions of power and want to “expand” the role of the SDF and increase its budget?"

No I don't. The increase in the defense budget is mostly likely due to China and North Korea.

13 ( +22 / -9 )

No I don't. The increase in the defense budget is mostly likely due to China and North Korea.

What do you think about all the US forces in Japan? Does that factor into your opinion?

-9 ( +9 / -18 )

This is an annual event , nothing new to see here as even the article states, and expanding Japan's DEFENSE Force is an excellent idea given the neighbors rhetoric and threats which over the last decade or more have been ramped up.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

This article reminded me when I was doing rock climbing in Yamanashi with nice view of Fuji san. I was hearing explosions so I was looking towards Fuji is it erupting or what, but later Japanese friend told me about JDF exercises.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If anyone gets through the Air Defence Forces, the Naval Defence forces, then and only then will Ground Defence forces be needed. And that’s game over. Unless they are needed as an occupation force? At least we can see as tax payers a bang for our buck.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Ruining the environment.

-16 ( +5 / -21 )

What do you think about all the US forces in Japan?

That it's a waste of the Japanese taxpayers' money?

-16 ( +2 / -18 )

What a colossal waste of money!

One mini nuke and battalions of tanks would be vaporized!

Armaments such as tanks are obsolete

-20 ( +2 / -22 )

a wide array of aircraft, artillery, tanks and helicopters fired on targets. The ScanEagle, a small, long-endurance, low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, was used for the first time.

Cooperation between elements of the defense force is an essential requirement for any effective defense force and utilizing new equipment at such a time helps all see and understand its potential.

These types of exercises are replicated in all modern defense forces and they keep the pointy end sharp for if it becomes needed.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

That it's a waste of the Japanese taxpayers' money?

Thanks for the reply.

Do you think the taxpayers would spend more or less on defense if the US left?

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

One mini nuke and battalions of tanks would be vaporized!

One mega nuke and it’s Game Over.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Let's hope the drill location is what makes it annual. If the GSDF only practices with live artillery once a year, they're in a lot bigger trouble than anybody ever thought.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

One nuke and its game over, it’s called MAD.

If the SDF is to be capable of actually defending Japan they need to practice in real life scenarios, such training exercises are the norm. Currently the most likely scenario where they would be called on is if an enemy force sought to seize one or more outlying Islam’s on some pretext or other, ergo the thrust of this exercise.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Rats, Islam’s = islands. Ruddy predictive text!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What exactly is Japan trying to prepare for ?

Far more better to focus on anti-missile... such as Israel's Iron Dome... and Anti-Cyber attack.

Invading Japan ? Well that'd be a big mistake... it's a lot simpler to Nuke the place - which the NK threaten to do, as too others... just the American presence prevents that, and yet, most of the local Japanese in certain areas would like that same American presence withdrawn. Perhaps they would prefer a Chinese presence... since according to the Irish PM ... the World is siding with China!!!! Oh Dear...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"What do you think about all the US forces in Japan? Does that factor into your opinion?"

Yes it does and that is why I can't sleep at night. I think the US will be around in a big fight China. Do you?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

They should be vaccinating people, not playing with their toys.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Necessary in 2021.

Changing Article 9 necessary. For Japan and USA to continue strong.

China is becoming more aggressive.

North Korea is aggressive.

Russia is aggressive.

All this countries also have Nuclear Weapons.

America is a 50/50 gamble.

Will they come against China and Russia if Japan is not prepared, not strong enough? Not for long. Look at Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Americans get tired.

If USA has to choose between New York city or Tokyo..... What do you think they will do? ? ? America first!

America's commitment is as far as the current president they have in power.

Ukraine also signed agreement with USA and Russia to give up their nukes in the past, with promises of safety in the future. Remember what happened to Ukraine in the past decade? ? ''Crimea''.

If your not strong enough to defend yourself you'll become a target sooner or later. USA can also use it's defense of Japan to force Another Plaza Accord. Another 3 decades of economic stagnation.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I am completely in favour of an SDF, but I never understood why they need tanks in this moutaineous island nation. Where are they supposed to go?

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Keep it up boys! There's a looming threat coming west of the yellow sea.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One mini nuke and battalions of tanks would be vaporized!

Armaments such as tanks are obsolete

Um, no. Tanks are highly survivable on the nuclear battlefield . Modern western tanks all have air scrubbing systems and NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) protection systems designed for exactly those situations. Pretty much all of that equipment was designed when the threat was the Soviet armored divisions running roughshod over Germany and Hokkaido (look at a map, it would have been easy for the Soviets to land forces on Hokkaido). It was expected to be a war fought with armor and tactical nuclear weapons and the equipment was designed with this in mind. Modern tanks built since the end of the Cold War retain those features. In fact if you notice a lot of European armies that divested their heavy armor after the collapse of the USSR regret that decision and are now looking for new tanks to replace the ones they sold off or scrapped. In Afghanistan the Germans found they had to bring over their Leopard IIs as their lighter ACVs were not doing the job adequately. The US halted plans to reduce its own tank force and is now building a highly uprated version of the M-1A2 based on lessons learned in combat. UK, France and Germany are looking to build a new tank to replace their existing heavy armor. The allies discovered you need tanks to support infantry in urban fighting, an unexpected discovery after the bloodbath the Russians suffered in Grozny, but their Russian have multiple shortcomings western designs avoid.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I should have said "but Russian tanks have multiple shortcomings western designs avoid."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am completely in favour of an SDF, but I never understood why they need tanks in this moutaineous island nation. Where are they supposed to go?

Tanks are essential to protect infantry in urban warfare. The Germans in particular found that out the hard way in Afghanistan and had to bring over their Leopards to protect their infantry there. In addition, it has long been expected that if the Soviets/Russians were to invade Japan they would do so in Hokkaido with heavy armor. That is why the Japanese built the Type 90, basically a Leopard II copy. It is faster, better protected and outguns the Russian tanks, but it's big and heavy. Type 90s are too heavy for bridges anywhere but Hokkaido and too big for the roads anywhere else so Type 90s are confined to Hokkaido. Japans new Type 10 tank retains the gun and much of the protection of the Type 90 but is smaller and light enough not to overstress bridges in the rest of Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One mega nuke and it’s Game Over.

No. It would incinerate a geographically limited area but it would not be "game over" as you put it. More like poking the hornets nest.  A metro area the size of Los Angeles for example would require dozens of nuclear weapons to destroy. LA County is 12,000 square kilometers. Just the City of Los Angeles is 1,300 square km. The US and Japanese militaries are not that fragile. All those years of defense planning since the 1950s assumed there would be a lot of nukes fired at the allies. The US is physically huge. Maybe only Russia has enough nuclear weapons to really slow the US down. China could do a lot of damage to US cities but doesn't have enough warheads to cripple its military. Far from it. It would just invite devastation from the US.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"The scenario was to prevent enemy forces from taking one of Japan’s southern islands." And the exercises involved fielding 45 tanks which Japan has no way of delivering to "one of Japan's southern islands". It's so odd how the JSDF exercises always seem to be fighting battles other than what they claim the exercises are about.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

jimmyBB

"The scenario was to prevent enemy forces from taking one of Japan’s southern islands."

So Hokkaido (where tanks apparently make sense) is one of Japan's southern islands? Interesting.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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