As part of what is likely to be a record-setting defense budget, the Defense Ministry will begin upgrading the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Izumo helicopter carrier next year to enable it to carry fighter jets.
The upgrade is in line with the National Defense Guidelines and the Medium-Term Defense Program for fiscal 2019 to 2023, which was adopted by the government in late 2018 and includes the plans to remodel the Izumo so that it can carry U.S.-made, state-of-the-art F-35B stealth fighters, becoming a de facto aircraft carrier.
The work is primarily aimed at reinforcing the heat resistance of the Izumo’s deck for landings and takeoffs by F-35B jets and is due to start in late fiscal 2019, which ends in March 2020, for completion during fiscal 2021.
For fiscal 2020, the ministry has requested a record budget of ¥5.32 trillion, marking the seventh consecutive year the budget request has increased. The sum includes ¥84.6 billion for purchasing six F-35Bs.
The MSDF will initially use F-35Bs from the U.S. Marine Corps to train Izumo crew members, as the delivery of the six fighters is not expected to start before fiscal 2024.
Also in the budget request, the ministry has asked for a total of ¥52.4 billion to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities in outer space and cyberspace and other areas, including against electromagnetic waves. Specifically, the government plans to set up a “space operation unit” comprising around 20 members of the Air Self-Defense Forces to monitor suspicious movements against Japanese satellites.