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Japanese pursuit of next-gen space tech provides opportunities for Aussie leaders

Japanese pursuit of next-gen space tech provides opportunities for Aussie leaders

Stephen Kuper

The Japanese government has responded to China’s growing anti-space and defence capabilities with an unprecedented defence budget, which provides avenues for Australian space industry leaders to benefit from increased expenditure. 

The pre-war power has long sought to shake off the chains of the pacifist constitution enforced upon it by the US, UK, Australia and other allies following the end of the war in the Pacific. However, Japan's geo-strategic realities have rapidly evolved since the end of the Cold War, when the US could effectively guarantee the security of the island nation. 

Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and modernisation efforts resulting in the fielding of key power projection capabilities, including aircraft carriers and supporting strike groups, fifth-generation combat aircraft, modernised land forces, area-access denial and strategic nuclear forces, combined with growing political and financial influence throughout the region, have served to shake Japan's confidence. 

The JFY2019 Defense Related Budget Request reinforces Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's commitment to strengthening the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) through a number of initiatives, particularly developing key capabilities across existing and new domains, including AI, cyber, space and electronic warfare.

The rate of technological evolution has reshaped the field of warfare and the weapons and platforms that will be used. Japan's proximity to China and developments in the ballistic missile, force projection, cyber capability and anti-space domains, in particular, have prompted a quick response from Japan.  

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Space is an area of intense focus for the JSDF, with the government seeking to invest about 27.01 billion yen in a number of key space capabilities, including: 

  • 26.8 billion yen to develop a space situational awareness (SSA) system in co-operation with major allies;
  • 180 million yen to enhance the command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities of the JSDF, including the vulnerabilities of satellites and their countermeasure, space-based electromagnetic surveillance to secure the stable utilisation of outer space; and 
  • 30 million yen to develop and study SSA capability enhancements, including a space-based optical telescope to support the tracking and identification of space debris and unidentified objects that pose a threat to Japan's satellites in geostationary orbit. 

Australia's developing local space industry, defence and academia are well positioned to benefit from Japan's defence and space build-up across a number of areas. 

 

In particular, Australia's expertise in SSA capabilities, launch vehicle specialists, space-based internet of things (IoT), Earth observation, advanced manufacturing and advanced materials, from companies including EOS, Fleet, Kleos, the CSIRO, Myriota, Gilmour Space and Black Sky Aerospace to name a few, are well positioned to capitalise on the growing demand from Japan's defence and aerospace industries. 

Building on these key capabilities can be combined with Australia's rapidly developing research and development credentials in hypersonics, artificial intelligence and cyber security to enhance the economic and strategic relationship between the two nations. 

In particular, Japan's heavy investment in hypersonic vehicles and the aforementioned SSA capabilities are areas that Australian industry can add value to the Japanese supply chain.  

Australia and Japan are working closely to help maintain a peaceful Indo-Pacific, as affirmed under the Australia-Japan Special Strategic Partnership.

The Australia-Japan relationship is the nation's closest and most mature in Asia and is underpinned by the strategic, economic, political and legal interests of both countries. The countries work closely in strategic alliance with the US, and lead in critical regional partnerships with countries such as India and the Republic of Korea.

Australia and Japan regularly participate in joint defence exercises and frequently consult on regional security issues, such as the nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches undertaken by North Korea.

The Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) signed in 2007 provides a foundation for wide-ranging co-operation on security issues for both countries, including law enforcement, border security, counter-terrorism, disarmament and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The JDSC also established the regular 2+2 talks between the respective foreign and defence ministers.

More information about the JFY 2019 Budget Request is available here. More information on how to access the Japanese export market is available from the Defence Export Office and Austrade

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