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Video Above: China Taiwan War Analysis

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Japan’s recently published Defense of Japan 2022 booklet outlines a series of critical time sensitive initiatives aimed at strengthening its force posture in the Pacific and specifically increasing the ability of its Self Defense forces to deter China.

Defense of Japan 2022

The text of the document cites particular concerns with what it describes as Chinese “coercion” and efforts to “change the status quo” in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

This has long been a concern for the US, Japan and its many SouthEast Asian allies, and it is something compounded and exacerbated by increased Russian-Chinese collaboration.

“The country’s ties with Russia, an aggressor nation, have deepened in recent years, with joint navigations and flights being conducted in the areas surrounding Japan by both Chinese and Russian vessels and aircraft,” the text of the Defense of Japan 2022 document says.

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces' airborne troops stand at attention

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces' airborne troops stand at attention

Certainly increased training and cooperation between Russia and China may be taking on new urgency in light of Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps of greatest concern to Japan, the Russian-Chinese cooperation has been quite active in the Eastern part of Russia closer to Japan.

“In the vicinity of Japan, Russia has made moves to strengthen cooperation with China, such as through joint bomber flights and joint warship sails involving the Russian and Chinese militaries, as well as moves to portray such military cooperation as “strategic coordination.” These trends warrant concern and must continue to be closely watched in the future,” the Japanese document describes.

Added to this regional threat dynamic, the Japanese paper specifies Russia’s new emerging Zircon hypersonic weapon as a growing and very serious threat, perhaps in part because it may be in position to threaten Japan from some Eastern parts of Russia.

“Having ensured that its nuclear capability rivals that of the U.S., the country has been accelerating the deployment of new weapons, such as planning the mass production and deployment of hypersonic cruise missile “Zircon” from 2022, and improving its asymmetric warfare capabilities through electronic warfare equipment and other measures,” the report says.

As recently as last year, the report specifies, Chinese and Russian warships conducted joint “sails” encircling Japan in a move that constituted a visible and concern threat to Japan.

Of particular concern to the Japanese, China is “relentlessly continuing unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion near the Senkaku Islands,” the report says.

China is relentlessly continuing unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion near the Senkaku Islands, leading to a matter of grave concern.

These more recent developments are identified in the report as one of several key reasons why the Japanese Minister of Defense cites the countries move to increase 2022 defense spending through what the document calls Japan’s “Defense-Strengthening Acceleration Package.”

The report does not mention specifics regarding which particular weapons systems may be increased but rather identifies key areas of emphasis such as allied cooperation and training, intelligence gathering technology, force posture requirements and accelerated modernization. Elements of this likely include Japan's massive, multi-billion dollar F-35 buy, its Global Hawk drones and continuation of many collaborative weapons programs with the US military including the SM-3 IIA, Aegis Combat System and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II.

The document also includes general areas of focus in the area of accelerated and stepped up or improved intelligence gathering. Japanese progress and modernization efforts in the realm of intelligence, according to the report, include “collecting, processing, and analyzing military communication radio waves, electronic weapons and other radio waves transmitted in the airspace over Japan.” The report goes on to specify that this kind of improved and expanded analysis will also include data from satellites, warning and surveillance aircraft as well as warships.

It is by no means surprising that China is discussed extensively in Japan’s recently released 2022 Defense of Japan report, as the country appears to be accelerating its aggressive behavior in the region and in the vicinity of Japan, strengthening its training and collaboration with Russia and massively increasing the size and sophistication of its military.

J-20

J-20

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Chinese Military

Certainly the growing configuration of the People’s Liberation Army - Navy, its nuclear arsenal which now includes ground-based built silos and a rapid emergence of 5th-generation aircraft such as the J-31 and J-20. Yet alongside these concerns, there are several other pertinent areas specified in the Japanese report such as China’s growing use of AI and an acceleration of what the Japanese report calls China’s “Civil-Military Fusion” which “accelerates two-way transfer of military and civilian resources.”

China’s use of AI is referred to in the Japanese report as “intelligentized warfare,” meaning weapons systems, surveillance assets and data processing speeds and capabilities are all being massively improved.

“Chinese military trends, combined with insufficient transparency about China’s defense policies and military affairs, have become a matter of grave concern to the region including Japan and the international community, and these trends have been intensifying in recent years, “ the report says.

AI-enabled “intelligentized warfare” can naturally impact a wide sphere of weapons systems and technology programs, particularly in China where there is not a civilian-military divide in any respect when it comes to budgets and the exchange of technology. For instance, satellite data can be processed and transmitted more quickly, warships, rockets and even nuclear weapons can receive and organize upgraded targeting information potentially enabling weapons to change course in flight. 

Essentially, a key question is the extent to which Chinese AI is in any way rivaling recent US breakthroughs within the realm of shortening “sensor-to-shooter” time, advancing course-correcting ammunition, enabling multi-domain attack connectivity and high-speed, AI-empowered information processing. While the Chinese emphasis upon these things is well known and documented, it seems the key question is just how far along the PLA is when it comes to shortening a combat “decision-making” cycle.

Can Chinese satellites send near real-time targeting specifics to 5th-generation aircraft and ground launchers amid war engagements? Can its fast-emerging hypersonic weapons change course in flight and operate with next-generation target data processing and guidance technology? What about its emerging J-20 and J-31 5th generation stealth aircraft? The PLA certainly does not have the numbers of 5th-generation aircraft to rival the US and its allies, however what may be lesser known is the extent to which PLA stealth fighters possess any kind of “sensor fusion” data processing comparable to a US F-35

Specifically, can these advanced fighter jets receive sensor input from a range of otherwise disparate spheres such as navigational data, targeting information or weapons guidance and threat specifics? These kinds of attributes are what seems to set the F-35 apart as potentially unique in the world when it comes to sensing and AI-enabled information and target data processing to enable lethal attacks from standoff ranges. In effect, the F-35 has demonstrated an ability to destroy enemy targets without itself being seen. This capability would indeed seem decisive in any kind of air-war engagement, a circumstance which invites the question of just how advanced are the Chinese J-20 and J-31 in the particular area of computing.

Large numbers of F-35s, guided missiles, drones and warship weapons systems are all arriving quickly in support of Japan’s Self Defense Force’s massive military build-up driven by Chinese hostility in the Pacific and a growing desire to strengthen training with the US.

Defense Strengthening Acceleration Package

Japan’s newly released Defense Report 2022 outlines a new defense budget strategy called the “Defense Strengthening Acceleration Package.” The text of the Japanese document explains that the country’s 2022 budget plan is $55.3 billion yen larger from the previous years.

“Japan’s defense expenditures have set a record for ten consecutive years,” Japan’s 2022 Defense Report states.

There is an interesting provision within the budget which allows for even more budget dollars to be allocated if they are related to what the Defense Report called the “realignment of US forces” with Japan. This is quite significant as there has been successful weapons development collaboration between the US and Japan for many years which has generated substantial results. 

Japan is one of a number of US allies operating Aegis Combat Systems on their warships. Not only does this greatly expand allied interoperability, but the integrated software, radar, fire control and missile system greatly expands range and capabilities for ballistic missile defense and air-and-cruise-missile defense at sea on Japanese warships. This is quite critical given the large maritime expanse in the Pacific and the need for Japan to defend its shores from Chinese ballistic missile attacks, many of which could reach Japan from mainland China.

“In order to secure technological superiority, Japan has decided to significantly increase investment in potentially game-changing technologies, and has increased R&D expenditure to a record high,” the Japanese 2022 Defense Report says.

Not only will Japanese warships operate with highly-sensitive, long-range, threat detecting Aegis radar, but the Defense Report 2022 explains that Japanese destroyers have successfully launched F-35Bs from its destroyers. F-35 interoperability, particularly in light of Japan’s massive new F-35 buy, represents another breakthrough step forward regarding US-Japanese defense connectivity.

An ability to launch vertical-take-off and landing F-35Bs from destroyers will give Japan a distinct 5th-generation stealth advantage in the area in a maritime environment. China does operate a limited number of land-based 5th-generation J-20 aircraft, but does not yet have sea-launched 5th-generation aircraft, and its emerging J-31 is being built to take off from a runway on a carrier and cannot perform the kind of vertical-take-off-and-landing needed to place 5th-gen airpower on amphibs and destroyers.

Japan has also in recent years collaborated with the US in the development of several cutting edge weapons such as the now emerging SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile. Engineered as a follow-on or upgraded variant of the well-known SM-3 missile, the SM-3 Block IIA weapon is larger, longer-range and much more capable than its predecessors. The SM-3 Block IIA introduces an ability to potentially integrate ICBM defenses at sea with expanded intercept range and precision-guidance technology.

Global Hawk Drone

Global Hawk Drone

Japan has also acquired Osprey helicopters, the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II and the Global Hawk drone, among other systems. 

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization