ASDF Matsushima Airbase's F2 fighter trainers took a significant blow from the tsunami

ASDF Matsushima Airbase’s F2 fighter trainers took a significant blow from the tsunami (Source: Nikkei)

It is a story that has been waiting to blow-up for a few weeks. A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet stating that the SDF had appropriated funds from the Reconstruction Budget to purchase an F-15 flight simulator. I dug up the source and found one Communist Party news post and an article in Akahata (the Communist Party newspaper). Other items were mentioned totaling ¥113,610 million for FY2012 and ¥160,659 million for FY2013. I tried to dig up mention of this F-15 simulator elsewhere to no avail, including no hits in the MoD’s budget documents (although they are pretty dense and I could have missed it). With no-one else handling the story besides the Communist Party rag, I sat on the issue to wait and see what happened – boy, did it blow-up fast.

You can find some mention of what is going on in English at Shisaku and the Japan Times, but I want to just quickly address on point that I keep seeing being raised, which is the notion that funds used to train ASDF pilots in the United States were ‘misused’:

The absurdity of this situation is revealed by the dubious projects funded out of the reconstruction budget. They include efforts to cope with activities of the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd organization (¥2.3 billion), quake-proofing work for 12 buildings of the National Tax Agency (¥1.2 billion), job training-related expenditure for prisons in Hokkaido and Saitama Prefecture (¥30 million), the purchase of six C130 transport planes for the Maritime Self-Defense Force and two C2 transport planes for the Air Self-Defense Force (¥15 billion and ¥25 billion, respectively), and training for ASDF fighter pilots in the United States (¥1.44 billion). – The Japan Times

Akahata writes (self-translation):

According to the MoD’s explanatory documents, a project entitled “Replacement Training for Pilots” was included in the reconstruction budget in relation to the planes flooded when the tsunami hit Higashi-Matsushima Base in Miyagi.

¥1,440 million was included in the FY2012 budget for the dispatch of F15 and F2 fighter pilots to America for training and development.

Why is flight training using the reconstruction budget? The MoD explains that because Higashi-Matsushima Base, where pilot training and development takes place, was hit by the tsunami, it became unable to train its pilots.

In the FY2013 budget request, ¥620 million is included to cover this training in America, along with ¥1,280 million for an “F15 Flight Simulator (Training Use)”. – Akahata

Akahata more than just insinuates that the MoD should not be doing this, following up with a list of appropriations for base construction outside the disaster zone. A few days later it suggested that reconstruction funds were being used by the SDF to maintain surveillance on Japanese citizens [1] [2]… That this reeks of the JCP is one of the reasons I wanted to wait for the story to be picked up elsewhere.

In the second of those two articles, Akahata gives the MoD’s criteria for inclusion in the reconstruction budget:

According to the MoD, the Reconstruction Special Account’s “Expenses relating to restoration and reconstruction” is separated into four matters: 1) the restoration of disaster-stricken SDF institutions, 2) the restoration of disaster-stricken equipment, 3) the restoration of equipment used in the disaster zone, and 4) the improvement of SDF disaster measures

The training of pilots in America is the replacement of the facilities and capabilities  (namely the two-seater F-2B fighter jets) at Higashi-Matsushima. Without two-seater craft, there is no way to safely train, and the US has the training facilities in place to allow Japanese pilots to train safely for a role in aid of national security. This is not misuse, this is exactly the kind of scenario that the reconstruction budget was created for. Of the three things reported in Akahata, only the construction of baths, etc. on bases outside the disaster zone seem like misappropriation to me. Plus I am still unable to find any mention of that F15 flight simulator in any other article.

The rather more down-to-earth Tokyo Shimbun championed the issue too, but unlike Akahata, they hit out against including the purchase of C130 and C2 transport planes in the budget, a far more reasonable stance. These are expenditures that stink of inexcusability.

If the expenses included under each ministry’s reconstruction budget are restoring a capability lost in the disaster, they have every right under the terms laid out by the government to claim those expenses back. That is the nature of bureaucracy and accounting.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch