Reports have revealed that Japan is planning to build its own fleet of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft as part of a wider effort to counter China’s military build-up in the East China Sea. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are looking to buy 17 Ospreys, if reports in major Japanese newspapers are to be believed, and is reportedly part of a five-year defense build-up that Japan’s cabinet is scheduled to vote on Tuesday.
The purchase of the highly controversial airplane is part of a larger acquisition program valued at 24.67 trillion yen (around US$238 million) that includes the build-up of new tanks, unmanned aircraft, aerial refuelers, submarines, destroyers and amphibious vehicles that could reportedly ferry ground troops ashore on remote islands. More notably, the acquisition program will include three Global Hawk surveillance drones, whose ability to hover at high altitudes for more than 30 hours will serve to strengthen Japan’s surveillance capabilities in the region.
The vote on the program follows China’s controversial announcement last month of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over uninhabited islands that it claims as the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese control and call the Senkaku. This partially overlaps Japan’s own Air Identification Zone, which was established in the 1950s and covers a much larger area all around that nation. A spokesman for Japan’s Defense Ministry declined to comment Monday on the reports about the equipment purchases. Just recently, an MV-22 Osprey from the U.S. Marine Corps was displayed at an air show early in December in Miyazaki Prefecture, the first time that the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft was shown in a public exhibition, made at an Air Self-Defense Force base.