The Self-Defense Forces is currently conducting one of its largest ever operations. Ground, Air and Maritime Self-Defense Force units in the Kyushu and Okinawa areas will training in the defense of Japan’s isolated outlying Southwestern islands, a key role laid out in the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY2011 and Beyond, released in December 2010. The exercise is taking place across the entirety of Kyushu, and media coverage has begun to highlight the significant scale of the exercise.

A Type 90 tank arrives at Oita Port on Nov. 9 after being transported by a private-sector ferry. (Shoma Fujiwaki)

A Type 90 tank arrives at Oita Port on Nov. 9 after being transported by the Natchan World, a private-sector ferry. (Source: Asahi/Shoma Fujiwaki)

In Hijudai, Oita, GSDF units from Hokkaido arrived via train and civilian ferry and began training with Central Army units from November 10th. Oita Broadcasting Service (OBS) reported that the 10th saw helicopter aerial reconnaissance of the maneuvering grounds and logistical preparations. It also noted that tank and mortar live-fire training was scheduled for November 20th.

Asahi Japan Watch covered the event in English too, noting:

About 35,000 SDF members, 1,300 vehicles, six warships and 180 airplanes will participate in the joint drill. Ground-to-air Patriot 2 missiles and a ground-to-ship missile regiment will also be deployed to Amami-Oshima, the main island of Amami group, from an ASDF base in Okinawa Prefecture and a GSDF base in Kumamoto, respectively.

In the joint drill, troops from the Kyushu region could be deployed in Okinawa Prefecture and Amami islands, and those from Hokkaido could offer rear support.

It also reports on the difficulties such a large operation poses to the SDF:

Massive in scale, [professor of security at Takushoku University Takashi] Kawakami said the SDF exercise has “many problems.”

“One is whether the SDF can deploy troops, including tank regiments, efficiently,” he said. “Another is how it explains the drill to local communities though some of the communities could oppose it. Another is whether it can appropriately implement logistical support, such as transportation and storage of bullets, fuels and food.”

Preparations were also underway in Kagoshima, according to the Yomiuri, where at from 9 a.m. on November 10th, around 340 members of the 8th Division out of Kumamoto boarded a private ferry at Shibushi Port, along with around 110 trucks. Around the same time, a further 120 vehicles, including Type-88 Surface-to-Ship Missile Launchers, boarded a private ferry out of Kagoshima New Port, arriving at Amami-Oshima later that day.

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Asahi picked up on two of Type-88s on the 12th, observing their anti-naval attack drills at Uchiumi Park on Amami-Oshima – posting the video below with their report. [Note: I am posting this for interest's sake, as Asahi doesn't allow embedding]

According to the Asahi article, there were some 470 SDF personnel from the three forces engaged in the exercise on the island, along with 160 vehicles。

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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