Japan has been investing significantly in the modernization of its defense capabilities over the past few years, owing to its perceived threats from North Korea and China. The country’s government also allocated an additional supplementary budget in 2023 to prioritize its defense modernization programs to integrate advanced technologies and weapons into the existing fleet of military platforms through acquisition programs with the US. With these programs, Japan aims to strengthen its defense capabilities while maintaining its interoperability with the US and NATO countries to enhance its operational readiness to respond effectively to evolving threats, says GlobalData, a leading data analytics company.

In addition to the modernization programs, Japan has also been focusing on the acquisition of next-generation equipment from the US to meet the requirements for engaging in modern warfare. Some of the major ongoing acquisition programs include F-35A/B, E-2D AEW&Cs, KC-46A, and RQ-4B Global Hawk, among others.

Sai Kiran, Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Procurement of F-35s not only enhances Japan’s aerial combat capabilities but also emphasizes its interoperability with the US and other NATO allies, which operate a huge fleet of F-35s across the globe. Japan’s focus on enhancing defense capabilities is attributed to its efforts to maintain its relevance as a key player in the Indo-Pacific region amid growing dominance of China in the region.”

GlobalData’s latest “Fleet Size Dashboard”, reveals that approximately 50% of Japan’s military fleet, consisting of land vehicles, artillery systems, fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft, naval vessels, submarines, and missile defense systems, boasts an average service age of less than 30 years. With ongoing acquisition programs, it is expected that some of the older platforms will be decommissioned over the coming years, and the average age of the fleet will reduce further by the end of this decade.

The Fleet Size Dashboard also reveals that more than 93% of Japan’s fleet is developed indigenously, highlighting the country’s ability to cater to the majority of its domestic defense requirements independently. About 6% of Japan’s fleet consists of military platforms that were acquired from its long-term defense partner, the US.

Kiran concludes: “Strong security alliance with the US allows Japan to have relatively easy access to advanced US-designed weapons and associated technologies, which the country has leveraged to modernize its military inventory. As a major non-NATO ally (MNNA), Japan is also working closely with other NATO members like the UK and Italy on programs such as the development of sixth-generation aircraft. This will further help Japan to enhance its interoperability with NATO countries while continuing with its modernization drives.”

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