A new U.S. defense strategy unveiled in January calls for a resized, refocused military. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world’s sea services: In an era of austere defense budgets and rapidly increasing technologies, what are the strategic objectives for your naval force over the next 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Admiral Masahiko Sugimoto
The probability of great wars between major states is declining because of the interdependency of nations. But gray-area contingencies over ethnic, religious and/or territorial issues—as well as maligned sovereignty and economic interests—likely will increase the probability of armed conflicts. That has required nation-states to diversify their naval capabilities, allowing for activities in gray areas and missions such as combating terrorism.
Although multilateral cooperation continues to advance, large-scale military powers possessing nuclear weapons exist in the regions around Japan. Additionally, many countries continue to modernize their military capabilities and intensify their military activities, creating various regional maritime-security issues. For the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), its obligations were increased significantly in 2011 as it mounted support missions in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, conducted continuous surveillance and intelligence operations in waters of national interest, and contributed to counterpiracy operations off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
Based on those situations, strategic objectives in the immediate future include placing more stress on the construction of security environments at both the regional and global level, particularly with regard to the maintenance of free and open maritime access above and beyond the defense of Japan.
To achieve those goals, Japan will maintain a force of well-trained officers and sailors and continue to acquire high-end equipment, deploying them together in joint operations. Despite recent financial difficulties, the JMSDF will build a dynamic force reinforced with advanced technologies and intelligence capabilities to promote the following two measures as a leading regional navy.
First, we will construct a defensive force that can continue to effectively deter aggression as well as respond to contingencies. Doing that is complicated by the fact that the potential warning time for confronting a crisis is shortened by exponential advances in military technology, which can give an aggressor significant advantages. Thus, comprehensive operational performance is imperative in responding quickly and seamlessly. The key to achieving that is multi-layered enhancement of intelligence and surveillance.
The alliance between Japan and the United States is key to those activities and is the foundation for the common good throughout the region. The JMSDF will maintain its high-end capability to reinforce cooperation and coordination with the U.S. Navy, including strengthening and improving interoperability for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and antisubmarine warfare.
Secondly, the JMSDF will continue outreach activities in peacetime engagements as a means to contribute to regional and global maritime security. In cooperation with other navies, we intend to advance our maritime-security initiative in areas such as counterpiracy operations and humanitarian aid/disaster response—endeavors that contribute to the maintenance and reinforcement of a free and open maritime order.