The National Defense Program Guidelines are out in English (click image to enlarge; here for the PDF), reflecting desirable force levels for the 2011-2015 period.

Highlights include:

- An increase in the submarine fleet from 16 to 22, likely due to the retention of older submarines (Japan tends to retire submarines when they reach 17-18 years) while the newer Soryu SSKs come online.

- The number of destroyers in the fleet continues to fall. The new number is 48 destroyers, which is down from a high in 1993 of 62. There’s no question that the current fleet is more capable than ever, including six Aegis destroyers and two through deck helicopter destroyers. It’s also clear that the MSDF is following its senior service, in this case the U.S. Navy, in fewer, more capable platforms.

- The GSDF organization depicted above does not reflect the growing amphibious capability. About three different infantry regiments have been identified in the past several years as having undergone amphibious training, but only one, the Western Army Infantry Regiment, may be ultimately tagged for the amphibious mission. (regiment = U.S. battalion)

- A drop in the number of GSDF tanks from a thousand or so to 400. These tanks would likely be concentrated in the 7th Armored Division, but that would only account for approximately 150 tanks or so. Assuming another 50 go to the 1st Armored Training Battalion, that still leaves 200 unassigned.

- A drop in artillery to 400 firing units. This is a really dramatic drop, considering Japan currently has roughly a thousand firing units, a combination of self-propelled 155s, towed 155s, and multiple launch rocket systems. This is really rather curious, because there is little to take up the slack in terms of fire support: Japan has relatively few attack helicopters and close air support isn’t really emphasized. Is this enough indirect firepower for 8 divisions (more like Western brigades, or French Army divisions) and 6 brigades (more like demi-brigades)?


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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch