The Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida approved Friday a defense budget of 5.40 trillion yen ($47 billion) for fiscal 2022, setting a record high for the eighth consecutive year, to advance the development of new technologies in the face of a militarily expanding China.
The draft budget, including outlays for hosting U.S. military bases, rose 1.1 percent from the current fiscal year ending in March as Japan ramps up its defense capabilities also against North Korea's nuclear and missile threat.
The increase for a 10th year in a row is largely attributable to a sharp rise in research and development spending, for which the Defense Ministry has earmarked 291.10 billion yen, up 79.60 billion yen, or 37.6 percent, from a year earlier.
The ministry will invest in game-changing technologies, such as crewless planes using artificial intelligence that fly in teams with next-generation fighter jets.
"As the security environment surrounding Japan has been changing at an unprecedented speed and becoming increasingly severe, it is an urgent task for Japan to strengthen its necessary defense capabilities," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a press conference.
The ministry has allocated 85.80 billion yen for the development of new fighter jets to replace the Air-Self Defense Force's aging F-2s. For this goal, Japan will work together with Britain on a new jet engine.
It has also decided to spend 39.30 billion yen for standoff missiles to be launched from ships, aircraft and land.
Such missiles are capable of attacking vessels from outside their firing range and are likely to fly 900 kilometers, with officials saying that they are aimed at deterring China's naval activities around Japanese islands while keeping Self-Defense Forces personnel safe.
"In recent years, there have been qualitative improvements in the activities of the Chinese military. There have been moves to improve their practical integrated operations and capabilities to execute missions," Kishi told reporters.
The ministry has allocated 127.80 billion yen to acquire 12 more F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets and 10.20 billion yen for small and midsized transport ships to support remote island defense operations in the southwest, where the SDF has deployed or plans to deploy missile units.
Remote islands include the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkakus in the East China Sea.
It has secured 52.00 billion yen to upgrade 70 F-15 fighter jets, a move also aimed at boosting defense capabilities around Japan's southwest chain of islands.
As Japan has scrapped its plan to introduce U.S.-made Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense systems, it has earmarked 5.80 billion yen to modify radars for new ships equipped with Aegis missile interceptors.
As for outer space, one of the new domains, the ministry plans to spend 117.70 billion yen to conduct research projects such as those on detecting and following hypersonic glide weapons using satellite constellations.
The weapons, already developed by China and Russia, can glide at lower altitudes faster than ballistic missiles, and are harder to intercept with conventional missile defense systems.
In the field of electromagnetic waves, the ministry plans to use 6.50 billion yen for the development of "future rail guns" that can fire bullets at high speed to shoot down hypersonic guided missiles.
It has also set aside 7.20 billion yen to experiment with technologies designed to shoot down drones with high-powered microwaves.