June 10, 2010:
Japans current strategy for developing defensive weapons is failing. Since World War II, the Japanese Defense Ministry has adopted the philosophy of kokusanka, self-reliance for arms production. Throughout the late 20th century, Japans defense industry had bolstered the abilities of Japans Self-Defense Forces. Japanese firms were not only acquiring foreign licenses to develop weapons, but they were also developing their own exclusive weapons. By the 1980s, Japan had many modern weapons including their own built versions of the SH-60 Seahawk, the F-15 Eagle, and the Type 74 tank.
However, with the recent decline of Japans defense budget, Japans strategy of self reliance is no longer working. According to a 2009 report from Japans Ministry of Defense, 13 firms associated with developing equipment for Japans Ground Self-Defense firms went broke. Also, 35 companies withdrew from defense contracting. Japans military budget has been decreasing for seven consecutive years. The Japanese defense budget has decreased by $50.4 billion between 2002 and 2010.
These decreasing costs are significantly hurting Japans defense industry. Japans economy already suffered with the 2008-2009 economic meltdown. Japanese firms cannot stay afloat in difficult times when their available work shrinks. On top of that, Japans procurement fell more than a quarter to 17.5 percent in between 2002 and 2010. Since Japanese laws forbid the export of any military weapons, Japanese defense firms cannot make up their shrinking profits.
Japans defense industry is also suffering because it is unable to produce equipment at economical cost. For example, a 120mm battalion mortar costs $600,000 ; this is above market price by at least $100,000. Also, Japans Type 90 tank costs approximately $7.4 million as opposed to the USs M1A1 Abrams which costs $6.21 million (the Type 90 has slightly more engine power than the M1A1). Lastly, Japans F-2 fighter costs $108 million while the USs F-16E/F costs $26.9 million . The F-2 design was based off the F-16. These examples show how inefficient Japans defense industry is; they cannot produce arms at economical prices.
With these current trends, Japan needs to adjust its defense industry. Defense firms are not profiting or even lasting in the Japanese market. With a shrinking budget, defense firms in Japan are forced to sell their weapons at incredibly high prices. Japanese firms have developed powerful technologies that could be exported for a substantial amount of funds. The idea of kokushanka may appeal to many Japanese officials, but it does not fit into Japans current interests. --By Bret Perry