|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Aug 22, 2016 10:02 AM EDT|
(Photo : Japan Air Self-Defense Force ) Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15Js.
Japan's Ministry of Defense is asking for a record budget of $51 billion for fiscal 2017 to cope with persistent military threats from China and North Korea amid growing tensions that might spin out of control.
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The defense budget is the fifth successive annual increase and is 2.3 percent higher than the current budget. Of this amount, $927 million will go to upgrading the PAC-3 variant of the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon.
PAC-3 is a significant upgrade to nearly every aspect of the Patriot system. The new upgrade will double the range of the PAC-3's missile to more than 30 kilometers.
Japan will also set aside funds to produce the Block IIA version of RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) being jointly developed with the United States to shoot down missiles at high altitudes. SM-3 is a ship-based missile system used to intercept short-to intermediate-range ballistic missiles as a part of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.
Funds will also be allotted to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jet. Japan has ordered 48 of the fifth generation stealth fighter and is one of eight countries jointly developing this aircraft.
Pilots of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force will fly the F-35A fighter jet for the first time by year end. The first four F-35s earmarked for Japan will roll off a production line in Fort Worth, Texas in November. The F-35s will be stationed at the Misawa Air Base alongside U.S. F-16s from the 35th Fighter Wing.
Funds will also go to strengthening Japan Coast Guard installations in the southern islands of Miyakojima and Amami Oshima to counter China's increasingly brazen aggression in the East China Sea.
Japan last June warned China further Chinese military naval incursions in the waters off its Senkaku islands that China also claims will compel Japan to take "necessary actions," including mobilizing the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The warning was prompted by a warship of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) entering waters just outside Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus.
Analysts have taken this to mean Japan has drawn a clear red line with the warning that violations of Japanese sovereignty by the PLAN will be met by force.
China has since tested this red line by sending PLAN warships close to the Senkakus but not close enough to trigger a Japanese military response. In its most blatant challenge to Japan, China last Aug. 6 sent a fleet of 230 fishing boats protected by seven China Coast Guard ships to swarm the waters off the Senkakus. Japan lodged a strong diplomatic protest over the Chinese provocation.
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