For the third year in a row Japan has increased its defense budget, this time to $41 billion. Japan is also striving to generate enough popular support for changing the laws that govern the aggressive use of its military. The most recent motivator for this was the recent execution of two Japanese citizens by Islamic terrorists (ISIL in Syria). Longer term the Japanese are becoming more alarmed at increasing Chinese military activity in waters and air space around Japan. It’s not just disputed areas, especially the Senkaku Islands, but around distant Okinawa and increasingly east of Japan, in the Pacific. Operating out there is what the Chinese would have to do for a blockade of Japan.
As a result of all this Chinese naval and air activity, there is growing support for expanding the Japanese military, especially obtaining long range UAVs for maritime patrol and ballistic missiles for hitting Chinese bases in the event of hostilities. This doesn’t bother China as much as constant Japanese chatter about developing nuclear weapons. But the Chinese believe that decades of anti-nuke militancy would prevent Japan from actually going down this road. If Japan did build nukes, it would again make Japan very to most Chinese and that could cause a really dangerous situation.
The three largest procurement in the new budget are twenty P-1 Maritime patrol aircraft, more Aegis destroyers and the first six F-35 fighters. Currently Japan has 245,000 troops. Most of the troops are in the army which has eight divisions and two air mobile brigades. Troops have 800 tanks and over 1,000 other armored vehicles plus 110 helicopter gunships and nearly 500 other helicopters (mostly transport). The navy has 18 subs and 49 surface warships while the air force has 372 combat aircraft.