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Politics & Security

How Capable are Japan’s Self-Defense Forces? Let’s Just Say, Hi-Tech



James E. Auer (Emeritus Professor of Vanderbilt University)


(Part 6 of 7)

I started this series as an attempt to debunk seven myths about Japan’s national security policy. Living in a democracy, and in peace time, a number of Japanese people have understandably not given much thought to national security issues, especially the possibility and dangers of war. The consequence, however, is citizens sometimes being persuaded by false arguments from the liberal media or from domestic or foreign critics.


Read the other parts of the series here:

Myth 1: Myth 1: Japan has no national security policy, and Tokyo only blindly follows the United States.  



Myth 2: Japan’s alliance with the US is dangerous—Japan might become “entrapped” in America’s “global strategy.”  


Myth 3: Constitution allows Japan to build military forces – just ask MacArthur


Myth 4: The Constitution of Japan allows only “the minimum level of self-defense capability”


Myth 5: Collective Self-defense is a Political Exercise, Independent of the Constitution




Myth 6: Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are extremely limited in capability.


It is true that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces do not have autonomous defense capability against a major threat, especially one with a nuclear weapons capability. It is incorrect, however, to say that Japan’s SDF are incapable.


To the contrary, Japan possesses a high technology anti-invasion, anti-submarine, and air defense capability. From 2001 to 2009 they operated professionally and impressively in the Indian Ocean, have contributed to and commanded anti-piracy patrols in the waters off Somalia and the horn of Africa.




Japanese ship under operation at the Indian Ocean


Even more meaningful were the combined operations of the 125 Japanese and American P3C anti-submarine warfare aircraft (100 Japanese and 25 American), which operated seamlessly to detect virtually every one of the 100 Soviet Pacific Fleet submarines based in Vladivostok during the final decade of the Cold War.  Japanese and American P3s communicated in real time with interoperable computers, which allowed keeping the locations of the potentially threatening Soviet submarines constantly known.  


The highly effective Japanese-American surveillance operations significantly complicated Soviet military planning – the essence of deterrence.


Today, China is trying to build a significant submarine force and hopes to base many of them in Taiwan, but the combined Japanese and American anti-submarine surveillance capability similarly complicates Chinese military planning.



Taiwan is also deploying P3 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, which can form a potential synergy with Japanese and American versions.  


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