By Guo Yilun and Song Yuchao
The Japanese government approved the defense budget for the fiscal year of 2021 at the end of 2020. The preface of the draft budget explicitly states that Japan will promote the integration of capabilities in new warfighting domains such as outer space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic spectrum with those in traditional domains for maximal effects.
The precondition for developing multi-domain combined combatcapabilities is increasing the input in outer space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic spectrum and developing the command and control and messaging capabilities across various domains to tear down the obstacles in the way of interoperability.
Japan has formed a reconnaissance network of eight satellites, which will be further expanded to 10 satellites including relay satellites to enhance the country’s space status perception capability. Besides, the Tapanese Self Defense Force(JSDF) is seeking to develop dedicated military communication satellites, and has launched two X-band communication satellites coded “Kirameki” since 2017, to be followed by another one to form a three-satellite network so that its land, maritime, and air self-defense forces that use different communications approaches will become compatible and communicate directly.
In the future, the JSDF will command its scattered troops to operate in unity leveraged on cross-domain information sharing, commanding, and communication.
JSDF’s multi-domain joint combat capabilities are also needed to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance. On the one hand, as Washington is accelerating the enhancement of its combat capabilities in new warfighting domains, Tokyo is worried about not being able to catch up; on the other hand, it is so costly to develop new-domain capabilities that both countries need support from each other, which creates the new growth point in their defense cooperation.
At present, the US is pushing to form a joint surveillance network involving allied armed forces, and the JSDF’s Space Operations Squadron set up in May 2020 is sure to be an important part of the network.
Japan’s first specialized space force is tasked to monitor and protect Japanese satellites from enemy attacks or threats from space debris, including using Japan’s ground radar network to monitor space activities that may attempt to jam Japanese or American satellites with anti-satellite missiles, laser radiation, communication jamming or killer satellites.
Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System(QZSS) satellites are planned to host an American Space Situational Awareness sensor payload, as the pair have also agreed to establish an SSA system. That’s how Japan and the US form an intelligence-sharing mechanism that can detect and track missiles.
In cybersecurity, Japan and the US have long initiated multi-tiered dialogue and cooperation mechanisms, and they both confirmed in 2019 that the Japan-US Security Treaty is applicable to cyber attacks.
Notably, by developing multi-domain combined combat capabilities, Japan can not only play a bigger role in the US-Japan military alliance but also break the constitutional restrictions on its military buildup with US backing.
Discussions about launching preemptive attacks on enemy bases have long existed in Japan, and the defense budget for Fiscal Year2021 proposed to build a force of refueling tankers and transport planes. These are out of bounds permitted by the pacifist Constitution, and the international community should remain highly vigilant.