Japanese defense officials requested a record $55 billion for the annual defense budget on Wednesday - the eighth consecutive year their request to the Ministry of Finance has reached a record high.
The budget pertains to fiscal year 2021, which begins in April 2021.
Research is one focus of the proposal, with some $113.6 million requested for the development of technologies like radar and mission systems integration for Japan’s sixth-generation fighter jet project, along with $555.8 million requested for other parts of the effort
An estimated $218.6 million is also sought for hypersonic weapons program research.
“The budget request also includes funding for less traditional defense, such as the research and operation of space and cyber units, as well as for new electromagnetic warfare units,” Defense News reported.
This would come as a followup to Tokyo’s May launch of its Space Operations Squadron - a unit of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force that is “tasked with monitoring and protecting Japanese satellites from enemy attacks or space debris.”
The defense ministry’s request comes weeks after the US State Department greenlighted the potential $23.11 billion sale of 105 “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and related equipment” to Japan. The breakdown provided by Tokyo called for 63 F-35A variant aircraft and 42 F-35B variant aircraft.
At least $308.5 million and $249.8 million of the budget have been designated for four additional F-35As and two more F-35Bs, respectively.
Tokyo’s total procurement of the Joint Strike Fighters would notably make Japan the biggest F-35 operator outside of the US. Two Izumo-class helicopter destroyers of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force are presently undergoing upgrades to allow the vessels to transport F-35Bs, which possess short takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities.
Some $218.6 million is earmarked in the budget for necessary upgrades during the coming fiscal year. The retrofit process includes an augmentation of the vessel’s lip and flight deck to accommodate the stealth aircraft.
The Wednesday proposal served as the first defense budget request issued by the new government of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The matter now awaits approval from the country’s Ministry of Finance.