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Indo-Pacific: Japan continues to prepare to face a possible conflict, strengthening the deployment of forces in the southwest direction

To adapt to the change in military strategic thinking from "exclusive defense" to "attack outside the defense zone," the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are accelerating the emergence of an "ascending line" in the southwestern direction, with a comprehensive enhancement of "reconnaissance, attack, maneuverability and protection capabilities," and frequently launching their military means on the "first island chain" in an attempt to "suffocate and capture" the opponent.

Participants unload light armored vehicles from a Japanese landing craft during the U.S.-Japan "Iron Fist" joint island seizure exercise on March 12th.

In the southwestern direction, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are accelerating the emergence of an "ascending line" of "reconnaissance, attack, maneuverability and protection capabilities" that has been fully enhanced, and are frequently placing pieces on the "first island chain" in an attempt to "smother and capture" the island.

New electronic warfare and reconnaissance force

Yonaguni Island is located at the western end of the Ryukyu Islands and its strategic location is very critical. Back in 2016, the Japan Land Self-Defense Force opened a station on the island and established a “coastal surveillance force” of about 160 people to monitor the movements of nearby ships.

On March 21, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force deployed an electronic warfare unit of approximately 40 personnel to the island, specifically responsible for collecting and analyzing radio waves emitted by ships and aircraft, monitoring communications, and radar jamming. The new members of the unit come from the 101st Electronic Warfare Group and the 301st Electronic Warfare Squadron under the Ground Self-Defense Force Electronic Warfare Command.

According to Japanese media reports, three electronic warfare subbases located in Okinawa's Naha, Chinen and Yonaguni islands will jointly build Japan's so-called "Southwestern Electronic Island Arc" and will gradually be equipped with new equipment that can interfere with missiles and drones.

To strengthen the protection of troops and stations, the area of the Self-Defense Forces station on Yonaguni Island will be expanded by about 60% in 2025. At the same time, a new firing range and ammunition depot will be built, and ground forces equipped with Type 03 medium-range surface-to-air missiles (upgraded version) will be deployed as an air defense missile force.

On March 21, Japan established the 9th and 13th "Reconnaissance Combat Battalions" in Iwate in the northeast of Honshu Island and Izumo in the southwest, and held a flag ceremony. At this point, the number of "reconnaissance combat battalions" under the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will increase to six. Among them, the 13th "Reconnaissance Fighter Battalion", which is expected to be deployed in the southwest, will increase its strength from about 350 to about 530 personnel compared to its predecessor, the 13th Reconnaissance Group, and will be equipped with Type 16 mobile combat vehicles, vehicles that can be transported by C-2 transport aircraft.

The "Reconnaissance Combat Battalion" is a so-called elite force, created in March 2019 by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force based on the experience of creating and training special forces such as the US Army "Rangers", and is mainly responsible intelligence, recovery, destruction of facilities and special operations.

Japan is trying to integrate intelligence reconnaissance and rapid attack, shortening the link between intelligence and firepower to adapt to fast-paced battles in computerized conditions.

Its members have been rigorously selected and trained to conduct high-intensity, long-term covert operations in complex environments.

Expansion of amphibious and land-to-ship strike forces

In parallel with building electronic warfare and intelligence reconnaissance capabilities, Japan is also focusing on strengthening amphibious operations in the southwest and shore-to-ship strike capabilities to achieve a fundamental transformation from “defensive shield” to role of "offensive spear".

According to Japanese media reports, on March 21, the "Mobile Amphibious Brigade" (in Japanese called "Mobile Amphibious Regiment"), the main force of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force responsible for amphibious operations on the southwestern islands, completed a new round of expansion.

The unit was founded in 2018 and is known as the "Japan's version of the Marine Corps." On the same day, the brigade's third combat regiment, the "3rd Amphibious Regiment," was formally established at the Ground Self-Defense Forces Takematsu Station in Omura City, Nagasaki Prefecture.

After the expansion, the size of the brigade will increase from approximately 2,400 to approximately 3,000. The two combat regiments established in advance are currently deployed at Aiura Station in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture. Kitajima.

The brigade commander said during the establishment ceremony that this expansion not only increased the overall combat effectiveness to 1.5 times compared to the previous one, but also significantly improved the deterrence and response capabilities of the Maritime Self-Defense Force Japanese through the alternating rotation of three combat groups.

This military force will be equipped with unmanned amphibious combat vehicles developed independently by Japan before 2028 to improve its “island seizure capability”.

On March 21, Japan officially established the 7th Coast-to-Ship Missile Regiment (called "regiment" in Japanese) at Katsuren Station in Uruma City, Okinawa Prefecture.

This is the first time Japan has deployed land-based anti-ship missile units to Okinawa and even the Ryukyu Islands.

Previously, the Japan Land Self-Defense Force had a total of 5 land-to-ship missile regiments, but only one (the 5th Regiment) was affiliated with the Western Front and deployed at Kenjun Base in Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The newly established 7th Shore-to-Ship Missile Regiment will have four squadrons, which will be deployed on the main island of Okinawa, Ishigaki Island, Miyako Island and Amami Oshima, which belong to the Ryukyu Islands.

In the future, the above-mentioned troops will be equipped with extended-range Type 12 ship-to-ship missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers to weave a "missile strike network" to control the southwestern sea area and strengthen the "strike capability external."

In particular, long-range missiles can be intensively deployed on the large main island of Okinawa, and their mobility can be used to increase concealment and improve survivability.

In addition, the island's airport and numerous closely deployed low-flying missile systems can also provide protection for shore-to-ship missile systems.

Create a so-called maritime and air "refuge"

To meet and serve combat needs, the Japan Self-Defense Forces are maximally mobilizing manpower and material resources to "deeply exploit the potential" of civilian resources in the Southwest.

According to Japanese media reports on March 18, to meet wartime needs, in fiscal year 2024, the Japanese government plans to designate Naha Civil Airport and Ishigaki Port as "particularly important airports and ports." for the Self-Defense Forces and the coasts.

To this end, the two countries mentioned above will expand their runways and improve port terminals and waterways. Additionally, as many as 12 airports and ports in Okinawa Prefecture will be listed as "specific use."

The Sakishima Islands are the southernmost island group of the Ryukyu Islands, also known as the "Southern Ryukyu Islands", and are composed of the Miyako Islands and the Yaeyama Islands. Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported on March 22 that, to prevent "foreign armed attacks," the Japanese Ministry of Defense will prioritize the construction of 'shelters' on the Sakishima Islands because they are 'outlying islands where it is difficult to evacuate outside of the islands'..."

To this end, the Japanese government will build "specific temporary shelter structures" on these islands, such as doors, walls and ventilation equipment that can withstand the impact of missile explosions, as well as underground structures that will allow people to stay for about two weeks.

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