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Despite defense buildup, Japan's arms industry struggles

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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Preparing for yesterday's war ensures crushing defeat.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

When 21st century battles are decided by missiles then tanks are pretty much obsolete

3 ( +11 / -8 )

That is one good looking tank.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Maybe it's better if the arm industry within japan never truly take off. If it's successful, then that only means it's export business is booming. Which means weapon of mass destruction are being sold to other countries that will eventually use them in conflicts. Arms exporters are the biggest cancer of this world. Weapons are mostly use in war to kill their enemies. That's just blood on our hands if we export weapons to others.

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Big Japanese defense manufacturers like Mitsubishi, IHI Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are struggling to sell 20th century tanks, aircraft and warships. They need to develop better technology to serve a military in the market for unmanned aircraft like Tritons made by Northrop Grumman and Boeing’s undersea Echo Voyager.

Japan's industrial prowess isn't on making war machines, America's industrial prowess is leaning a lot on selling arms. If your country sells policy along with toys that help enforce those said policies, then your industrial sector related to that will most likely grow as well. While every country needs to have a decent self-sufficient defense industry, it's costly and more money should be spent on more important things. And considering Japan, I'm quite sure they will not want to go down that path. Why make something that is of good quality than just buying something of better quality instead?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan's building tanks of inferior technology is akin to making a new cellular phone with 2008 Blackberry tech and then pricing it as high as an Iphone 13.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

Likewise, Japan's international arms sales never really have taken off. Uncompetitive, with high prices, aging technology and scant government support, arms makers in Japan increasingly are just withdrawing from the business.

Ghost in the Shell lied to me. Maybe if the LDP massively subsidizes them with the public's taxes they can start developing Tachikomas!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

“The problem is, Japan’s defense products are not first grade. Nobody is interested in buying second- or third-grade products at higher prices,” he said.

Komatsu Ltd., a leading construction equipment manufacturer, stopped developing and making armored vehicles after upgrades failed to meet Defense Ministry requirements. Komatsu, once the 7th largest supplier, now only maintains existing fleets it supplied.

Can’t push a stagnant industry and expect success. And you shouldn’t prop it up with tax money either, when so many families are living below the poverty line.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Buy more paper Tigers

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

“Japan needs to be more competitive, more assertive and also be more willing to engage with customers in the marketing and promotion of defense platforms,” Jon Grevatt, principal of Indo-Pacific research and analysis at the Janes, told a recent online event.

willing to engage with customers in the marketing and promotion of defense platforms,”

If you were a cynic, you could read this as a reference to bribes.

Not me though.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

@kurisupisu

When 21st century battles are decided by missiles then tanks are pretty much obsolete

Missiles may win territories, but it's the tanks and the boots on ground that hold onto territories you have won.

@Toshihiro

Why make something that is of good quality than just buying something of better quality instead?

Arms exporters never export arms that's as good as what they use at home, they are always downgraded. It's not just the US that downgrades export version of arms, but other big arms exporters like Russia, China, Germany, and Korea also downgrade.

For example, the US F-35s will get a new engine called AETP by 2030, which will increase the range of F-35s by 30%.

But the US will use same old F135 engine on export F-35 models, with upgraded power generation capacity to feed updated electronics.

@dagon

Ghost in the Shell lied to me. 

Ghost In The Shell is the 80's manga, drawn in an era when Japan was aiming to surpass the US and become no. 1 in GDP. The US also had the similar expectations, just look at Back To The Future 1 & 2 to see what I mean.

-10 ( +7 / -17 )

Since they are having a hard time selling the tanks, can I get one with a deep discount to use as my daily car?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Samit Basu

Where is Japan planning on invading with its obsolete tech?

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Why not get out of this industry all together?

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@kurisupisu

Where is Japan planning on invading with its obsolete tech?

Diaoyu Islands.

@Speed

Why not get out of this industry all together?

While it's certainly heading toward that way, defense industry is tied to national security and should be preserved whenever possible.

-18 ( +4 / -22 )

Japan's military is not really that daft.

It's a shell game .

Japan needs to appease multiple nations and its population defense whilst planning its own hidden agenda and trying to keep track of what other military's are doing.

It certainly doesn't help that Japan was forced to surrender its country and given a constitution to follow when it would rather be a leader.

Japan has to pay the USA military for defense whilst hosting and purchases old weaponry and new expensive weaponry also.

A cash cow for the US .

All this boo haw about boots on the ground and antiquated weaponry is a wasted distraction.

Technology has changed so much now its a whole new game.

Its becoming painfully obvious which countries are the leaders in science technology and weaponry.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Not to worry, Abe will find a way to force Kishida to sell them, even if it means a reduced rate and to Japan’s enemies, with the nation picking up the rest of the cost through taxes.

-16 ( +4 / -20 )

Why is this article so heavilly fixating on the Type 90 tank as proof of Japanese arms manufacturers supposed obsolescence? Japan already has a 21st century tank, the Type 10, also made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, debuting in 2012, it's aramaments and capabilities are hardly '20th century technology'.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

@Kinjiro_Aki

debuting in 2012, it's aramaments and capabilities are hardly '20th century technology'.

Actually Type 10's armament and armor is worse than Type 90's.

At least the Type 90's a main battle tank intended to take direct tank shell hits.

This is not the case with Type 10, which is called a mobile coastal gun whose mission objective is to line up at the beach and open fire on incoming enemy landing forces. The Type 10 has paper thin armor to keep the weight below 40 tons to be transportable via Japan's narrow gauge railway. Single hit by a proper main battle tank's shell will kill everyone inside.

BTW, Type 10 doesn't even have air conditioning inside.

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

Japan's arms industry struggles

It's not just the arms industry. Everything else in Japan is failing. All thanks to the government of the Peoples Republic of Japan.

-14 ( +3 / -17 )

This same article appeared today in "Defense News" (aka Defense Snooze). Like a lot of articles in that new outlet it is slanted, has gross distortions of fact, is technically inaccurate, omits critical details, and is written to advance a political point. I have seen articles and editorials in Defense News regarding systems I was working on at the time that were factually wrong, and not by a little bit either. Their staff has axes to grind and are not entirely honest.

The Type 90 tank mentioned in the article is for all intents and purposes the most recent version of the German Leopard II but manufactured in Japan. It is among the very best tanks in any nation's arsenal. Its only peer is the American M-1A2. Nothing in the Chinese or Russian inventory is close. But because it is large and heavy it is confined to Hokkaido where the worry was having to defeat Russian armor. It is too wide and heavy for the bridges and roadways in the rest of Japan, so the SDF developed the smaller, lighter Type 10. But the Type 10 is designed to specific Japanese conditions so it is not very exportable. Doesn't mean its a bad tank, just focused narrowly on Japan's unique needs.

The article says Japan gave up on a US made anti ship cruise missile to develop their own "surface to air cruise missile". No such thing as a surface to air cruise missile. What really happened was Japan decided not to buy expensive LRASMs and integrate them into the F-15 but is buying the land attack version called JASSM and integrating those on their F-15s. Left unsaid is any airplane that can launch JASSM can launch LRASM, and the US can supply Japan with these in the event of a war.

There is nothing about the JMSDF that could be considered low quality or old fashioned. They are one of the very best equipped and trained navies in the world so I directly challenge the authors assertions about Japan having second or third rate equipment. In the case of the JMSDF at least that is a bald faced lie.

I could go on but you get the idea. It is an article advanced to push a political point in some legislative body or committee somewhere or to advance the sales of some system or systems. Don't take the article at face value. It is highly slanted.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

Of course, having good arms sales requires there to be tension and conflict around the world, something the US is good at doing. I think Japan actually sells more than you would think. All those Toyotas that ISIS was using probably doesn't register under arms sales. I think if Toyota were to manufacture lightly armed Tundra's and Tacoma's Japan would easily dominate that market.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Imagine if all the money in the world spent on military and instruments of death was spent on the betterment of humankind and the planet!!??

We would be living in a utopia or at least as close as humans can come to utopia…

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Imagine if all the money in the world spent on military and instruments of death was spent on the betterment of humankind and the planet!!??

We would be living in a utopia or at least as close as humans can come to utopia…

Laughably naive. Tribes and nations lacking defenses have never fared well historically. The “utopia” that you imagine would only be achieved by creating a desert and calling it peace. (Hint: it’s not really peace if you’ve created a space that has nobody in it.)

Human nature hasn’t been perfected. There will always be conflict between peoples. Arguably, the best way to avert conflict and better civilization is to maintain a strong military.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Tank warfare. Went out with cavalry charges.

The USA, teetering on the brink of homecoming a failed state and certainly a failed democracy is an object lesson for those who wish to waste resources on military weapons and dedicate technological expertise on the manufacture of weaponry from killerbot soldiers to nuclear warheads. Instead of dedicating those resources to more peaceful ends and for the greater good.

The rather peculiar propaganda advocating for Japan and its heavy industries to base their manufacture on weaponry is very, very odd. It lines up with the Abe cohort and those further to the reactionary right and the ongoing intent to trash Article 9. A less than wise intent.

Switzerland. If those who rule over Japan had one wit of actual concern for the peoples of Japan and the future, Switzerland is a better model than the USA. In fact, developing an economy that is focused on war machinery denies the very problem that beset contemporary civilization. Concentrating on alternative sources of energy and adapting the economy to a perilous future that will be beset with rising seas, crop failure, epidemics and a slew of very formidable challenges will not be offset by developing an armament economy or wasting resources on creating an army that will engage with a phantom enemy. China is not going to invade Japan. Taiwan is a problem for the North Americans who have been bellowing about such for almost a century. Russia has no designs on Japan, it faces westward and is European, not Asian.

Folks discourse on the effectiveness of various models of tanks as if discussing sports teams and their equipment. War, to effect a cliche, is deadly business whose product is carnage and fratricide.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

As far as a defensive buildup in Japan to free themselves from reliance on occupying forces, sure. At the same time, I don't see how "more advanced weapons" are necessarily the answer they are looking for.

I don't think it is as black/white as "military good" or "military bad". Obviously any country should be able to defend themselves, because unless everyone simultaneously disarms somebody is going to attempt to exert their will on others. If North Korea disarmed entirely tomorrow, American troops would be bringing "freedom" faster than you could shake a stick.

On the other hand, I can think of precious few countries that maintain a strong military solely to avert conflict. They exist, but they probably aren't the countries that most people think of right away. Imperialist nations are going to use their military to impose their will on other nations, whether through direct force or the threat thereof.

Maintaining that level of deterrence, where you pose no real threat to anybody else but nobody can easily bully you, is a very thin line. I can count on maybe one hand how many nations have managed it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japan once at the forefront of many technologies has slowly been left behind. As a nation of islands it relies on trade via sea and air. In the event of a conflict with a stronger neighbor the possibility of blockade is real. An ability to supply your SDF with locally made ammunition, weapons, missiles and replacement equipment is the difference between defeat/surrender and victory.

Australia is moving to a position of self reliance on Military equipment by manufacturing under license in Australia someone else's designs, or designing its own equipment. Australia supplies its own small arms, ammunition, armoured vehicles both locally designed like Hawkei and Bushmaster, and licensed like boxer, AS9 Huntsman and soon Lynx or redback infantry vehicles. A new missile factory to build and supply missiles used by the Australian military from surface to surface and SAM's. Australia is building AI controlled fighter jets to supplement the Air force and builds its own Destroyers and Frigates and Submarines and in wartime would make and churn out cheap corvettes like it did in the last World war.

Japan must keep a sovereign industry to keep its forces in a position of self supply on as many things as it can. The more it just buys from overseas the more risk in conflict that it wont be able to get replacements when it needs them. Developing high tech always leads to branching out for civilian products that can make more money. Japan has a knack of thinking outside the box for solutions and for innovation and needs to nurture that ability and make it work once again for the good of the nation.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Tank warfare. Went out with cavalry charges.

After the Cold War most European armies divested much of their armored forces thinking as you do that tank warfare went out with cavalry charges. The experience of Russian armor in Grozny added to the belief, never mind there were specific vulnerabilities in Russian tanks exploited by Chechen veterans of the Soviet Army that are not present in western tank designs. The low turrets of Russian tanks limits the depression and elevation of their guns, preventing them from engaging Chechen fighters shooting rockets at them from basement or upper floor windows of taller buildings, and their fuel thirsty T-80 tanks sat often for hours idling outside of Grozny due to poor operational planning, leaving many tanks to run out of fuel during combat. The inability of Russian tanks to depress their guns also makes it much harder for them to take advantage of difilade, another problem not suffered by Western tanks like the Type 90.

The experience of NATO forces in Afghanistan and US and UK forces in Iraq changed a lot of minds. Tank warfare is not obsolete. Desert Storm was among the greatest tank battles in history. In fact experience fighting in Iraq's cities has shown that heavy armor working in close coordination with infantry has proven to be essential in urban warfare. Infantry without supporting armor can't do the job alone. Many of those NATO armies are now struggling to rebuild the armored forces they divested themselves of a decade or more ago. Seeing the Russians and Chinese push new tank designs into service lends a sense of urgency.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"Tank warfare. Went out with cavalry charges."

For the historically challenged, to say this misinformed claim is an overstatement...would be an understatment! Tanks have proven extremely effective in real battles long after cavalry charges "went out", and are still going strong.

I'd like to see, for example, how Ukrainians would respond to thousands of Russian tanks rolling over their eastern border. If I had to bet, I'd say it'd be similar to a cavalry charge...but charging in the opposite direction!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Samit Basu

@kurisupisu

When 21st century battles are decided by missiles then tanks are pretty much obsolete

*Missiles may win territories, but *it's the tanks and the boots on ground that hold onto territories you have won.

At face-value: yes, but it may also heavily depend on environment (terrain, weather), type of operations/warfare, logistics involved, etc.

Despite troops on the ground: Afghanistan ended up seeing the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the US going home with their tails between their legs, Iraq and Vietnam saw the US while Algeria and Indochina saw France ending up being humiliated. On their side, Napoleon and Hitler essentially lost to Winter in Russia and the "divine winds" (Kamikaze) protected Japan from the Mongols (and prevented their boots to hit Japanese ground).

All-in-all, when the theater of operations transforms into a quagmire and/or regular war changes from regular to guerilla warfare (or if warfare was of a guerilla nature to start with) all bets are off...The "win hearts and minds" mantra may also not get anywhere either depending on local politics / society...

Gaining air superiority is also made more difficult due to missiles and rocket launchers (with some being very easy to handle and move). Even once air superiority is gained, one still needs to get the hardware and personal ( (armored) vehicles, troops, food, ammo, etc) to the theater of operations with missile/rocket launchers still operational being able to continue to pluck transporters off the sea or air. Even if you get the material on the ground, (and depending on the country's situation) you may again run into guerilla warfare as explained above...

These days, ground means like tanks seem more a (more/less) "sure" way of defending one's own territory over trying to take over somebody else's or a means to wage warfare in a very regular war where regular forces are opposed to each other.

One could also argue whether the aim is: (a) to overall cripple the opponent (e.g. "teach him a lesson") or (b) cripple some or all of his means to wage warfare or (c) to actually take over his territory. If the aim is not to take over a territory, you wouldn't need any troops on the ground to start with...

Long story short: it depends what you're after and what you need to deal with to get there, and with a lot of recent cases of attempted conquest with intended later occupation of territory going tits up, I think that this strategy will lose traction in the future...I would expect more missiles, drones and AI-driven warfare over "regular" warfare (which troops are a part of) in the future, with troops mostly used to keep one's (already) occupied territories or country boundaries.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Like it or Not: You just need to buy from the US where R&D is in the Billions. No telling what they have that we just don't know about.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That’s just rolling garbage, and quite expensive one. You can’t hit an intruding Russian airplane, also no Chinese ship or North Korean incoming missile or base, and they also can’t swim to Taiwan if there’s something that needs attention or help, of course also cannot do anything against only even one of the small corona viruses… It’s completely useless crap, not at all capable for giving any answer to even one of the possible or current threats. Maybe, for paving way or moving heavy things, in case of an earthquake and such, but that could also be done by civilian machinery.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If the tanks are needed it’s over already. The enemy to land would need air supremacy and nautical supremacy .The real defence is air and sea power. Tanks look cool, particularly to a ground attack aircraft, helicopter, drone.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

smithinjapan

Today 09:49 am JST

Not to worry, Abe will...

-15( +4 / -19 )

Hrm. Do none of these down-voters have anything interesting to say for themselves?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Peace on earth.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 It’s completely useless crap, not at all capable for giving any answer to even one of the possible or current threats.

They are intended to stop Russian armor. You can ask a Ukrainian about how non threatening the Russians are. Japan is still technically at war with Russia and the Russians have this habit of inventing territorial claims out of thin air. With a heavily armed and belligerent neighbor like Russia a short distance across a narrow strait it is not wise to leave Hokkaido undefended by a capable armored force.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tanks look cool, particularly to a ground attack aircraft, helicopter, drone.

Study the fighting in Fallujia, Mosul and Baghdad for example. For close quarters urban warfare an army needs heavy armor to back up infantry. I'll also mention something the US discovered when some M-1A2s were disabled by roadside bombs during urban combat, blowing their treads off and disabling them, or when they took hits to the back of the engine compartment that knocked their power out ( a weakness since remedied by something called TUSK ) the US Army had a very hard time blowing their own tanks up so they couldn't be exploited by adversaries. Direct hits from another M-1A2 didn't do it. The best American anti-tank round that cuts through Russian tanks like a hot knife through butter could not penetrate the Abrams armor. Hellfire anti-tank missiles from an Apache didn't defeat the Abrams armor either (the Type 90s armor is comparable btw and Hellfire has a two stage warhead designed to defeat tank armor ) . The only way to reliably blow one up was with a much heavier Maverick missile from a fixed wing aircraft. Most armies are now fitting their armored forces with systems designed to defeat incoming RPGs, rockets and missiles so attacking them has become much harder to do.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the IT sector, if you want to sell anti-virus software, you need to bung a few sacks of cash to hackers. That will stir up trade.

In the arms sector, you need to start a few small wars to drum up trade - the US and Russia did this for decades in Africa and the Middle East.

As for the kit, the last two years suggests that the future of warfare in our post-truth, post-rules world, lies in pharma. That's actually quite cheap. Good news for North Korea, who like to keep up but lack the readies.

If all else fails, donate sacks of cash to developing countries, as long as they spend it on Japanese weapons to point at their neighbours or sort out their drug cartels and jihadists. In the latter case, they might actually use them, rather than just polish them. You are recycling tax payers' cash into revenue for Japan Inc., but not for the first time.

Japan's real problem is the Sitting Duck issue. Nobody is going to bomb the US, but Japan is a US ally with US bases and endless historical gripes with its neighbours that can be buffed up and recycled at short notice. It also has around 40 nuclear plants that can be 'repurposed' as nuclear detonations with a hypersonic missile strike or a bit of sabotage. Alternatively, a large detonation on the right bit of seabed would turn Tokyo into an aquarium. So maybe Japan should give peace a chance.

There is always Plan B. Most weaponry is never used. The US has thousands of nukes for example. If it used them all, the planet would be uninhabitable. Japan is unlikely to ever use the multi-billion dollar fighter jets and all the other stuff they buy from the US. It's all for show and politics as a deterrent. So produce something with an impressive specification, but which does not work. Flog it to a customer, who knows it doesn't work. They can polish it and scare people with it, but will never actually use it. Price it at $2bn and return half a billion to the purchasing government in plain brown envelopes. A win for Japan, new shiny for the purchasers, and ethical arms - they will never hurt anyone. Because they don't work. To prevent some idiot actually trying to use them, only supply Japanese language manuals.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"...Japan's arms industry struggles."

Oh, t'were this a worldwide 'problem'. The U.S. cannot pass funding legislation that would benefit every American but can EASILY pass a $775 BILLION 'defense' package to ensure that every other country onplanet has the need to defend itself from the U.S. while putting many billions of dollars directly into the accounts of the usual parasites for useless trash designed ONLY to inflict DEATH on our fellow Humans.

As for Nihon's 'defense', as mentioned above, its greatest defense is spelled out in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Absolute NEUTRALITY. But 1500 years of some of the most brutal and murderous history of any People, it is hard to quell the psychopathic and dominance seeking Samurai lurking deep in the soul of Nihonsei culture, and nowhere more 'fixed' than in the brains of the blind old men who become dominant in Japanese politics who, even in the stew of their own secret urges, quail before the MIGHTY and accept military occupation and political arm twisting by even stronger and more veil psychopaths with nary a squeak.

"Preparing for yesterday's war ensures crushing defeat."

Whatever the fantasies one might hold concerning Human 'intelligence', there can be no argument that Human 'memory' is absolute crap and in, of all places, Japan, is unforgivable. Some efforts to help Human memory, say, for example, Heiwa Koen in Hiroshima, seem to do little for the programmed minds which believe without thought or question the lies of the parasites, "Everyone else HATES YOU and wants to KILL YOU and take what you have" when it is THEY who care nothing for you but what THEY can take from you and use you to take from others. Again, the most disappointing thing about being a Human is Humanity itself.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

 It also has around 40 nuclear plants that can be 'repurposed' as nuclear detonations with a hypersonic missile strike or a bit of sabotage.

Sigh. Good grief, the uranium used in commercial light water reactors is not even close to the degree of enrichment necessary for a nuclear explosion. Any P239 produced would have to be harvested within two weeks of operation (meaning the reactor would have to be shut down and defueled) or it acquires another proton and becomes P240. This is why light water reactors are considered to be safe and not a proliferation threat. The worst a weapon hit could do is blow the core up and scatter radioactive material around, but there would be no nuclear explosion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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