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The Reorganization Of The Division
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
                    Submitted to
     The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
                 Quantico, Virginia
       In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
             for Written Communications
                   LtCol. A. SANO
           Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
            		April 6, 1984
     At the end of World War II (WW II) all of Japan's
military forces were demobilized as one of the conditions of
     The present day Self-Defense Force, with a strength of
75,000, grew out of the National Police Reserve which was
set up to maintain the peace of Japan in 1950 when the
Korean War broke out.1  The National Police Reserve was
reorganized as the National Safety Force two years later, in
1952, and the authorized strength increased in number to
     In October of 1953, based on the Ikeda-Robertson talks,
a joint statement between Japan and the U.S. for the gradual
increase in Japan's self-defense strength in accordance with
the U.S.'s withdrawal from Far East was issued.3  Then the
Defense Agency was established and ground, maritime and air
self-defense forces were inaugurated on July 1, 1954.4  The
Defense Agency Establishment Law proclaimed that the Self-
Defense Forces had the authorized personnel strength as
follows:  ground -- 130,000, maritime -- 15,808 and air
force -- 6,287.5
     Since today's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) came into
existence,  the Defense Agency has made an effort to
modernize the equipment and increase defense capability.
Recently Japan's defense policy was founded on the "Basic
Policy for National Defense" adopted by the Cabinet in May
1957.  On the basis of this policy, Japan carried out four
three- or four-year defense buildup plans with a view to
building up by stages an effective defense capability in a
manner commensurate with it's national strength and domestic
     When the fourth Defense Buildup Plan was completed in
1976, the Government adopted the "National Defense Program
Outline" at a meeting on the National Defense Council and of
the Cabinet.6  Unlike the previous defense buildup plans
which set specific goals to be achieved within a fixed
period of time, the "outline" set forth guidelines for
Japan's defense and constituted criteria for management and
operations of the Self-Defense Forces.  Japan's defense
buildup in FY 1977 and thereafter has been carried out
according to the "outline".
     Meanwhile the personnel strength of the Ground Self-
Defense Force (GSDF), which was originally 75,000, has
gradually but steadily increased to 110,000 in 1952, 130,000
in 1954, and 180,000 today.7  There are five armies, 13
divisions and two combined brigades in the GSDF.  Today's
posture of the GSDF was basically established in 1962 when
the second Defense Buildup Plan was executed.
     In contrast, most major nations realize that military
power is an indispensable factor to their national security
and are constantly building up their military power in terms
of both quality and guantity.   As far as armies are
concerned, they have reorganized their divisions several
times after WW II to keep up with the change of strategy,
tactics and equipment.
     To keep up with these circumstances, the JGSDF would
not be able to improve its defense capability unless its
divisions are reorganized.
I.   Characteristics of the Ground Defense of Japan
     A.   Significance of the Ground Defense Capability
          First of all,  we must keep the geographical
features in mind.  As shown in Figure 1,8 Japan is a
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narrowly shaped, sea-girt archipelago located in north-
eastern Asia. An aggression against this island country
would have to pass waters or airspace but would be able to
occur in almost any part of this country.
          Secondly,  Japan's policy of conducting her
military operations exclusively for self-defense makes it
imperative that Japan's Self-Defense Forces be the passive
party in a military action.
          Thirdly, since she has this exclusive self-defense
policy, the battle must take place on her land with the
Japanese people becoming involved.
          Fourthly, the SDF personnel are appointed under a
volunteer  system.   As  such,  this  system  differs
fundamentally from the national conscription system whereby
citizens are forced to undergo military service.  Under this
volunteer system, the SDF must continue to recruit new
members in order to maintain its organization.
          Fifthly, the defense of Japan is based on the
arrangement treaty with the U.S.  To make sure of her peace,
Japan has to complete a defense setup to protect against all
conceivable forms of aggression including invasion using
nuclear weapons and invasion using conventional weapons.
However,  Japan cannot complete such a defense  setup
unassisted.   Japan strongly depends on the Japan-U.S.
Security Treaty.
     B.   Characteristics of the Ground Defense of Japan
          (1)  Since the agression against this island
country can be estimated in almost any part of the country,
the GSDF has to deploy balanced units so that it can conduct
defense operations from the outset.  In addition, because
Japan is surrounded by sea, the main effort of the defense
operations is focused on how to fight against the invasion
from sea or air.
               Therefore, the GSDF has to possess not only
the ability to systematize the defense power but also the
strategic mobility.  This is necessary so that the units
deployed in the entire country can gather to the area the
invasion takes place as early as possible.
          (2)  Since the defense policy of Japan is
exclusively self-defense and passive, it is necessary to
improve and maintain combat readiness so that the GSDF can
conduct the defense operation successfully whenever and
wherever the aggression takes place.
               Japan's defense policy does not allow the
GSDF to attack or invade the aggressor's territory nor does
it allow prevention and containment attack.  Consequently,
the GSDF can achieve the mission of breaking up the
aggressor's intention only by the destruction of enemy units
which have invaded Japanese territory.
          (3)  Should an aggression take place, the supreme
mission of the SDF is to prevent the fighting from spreading
to her land and prevent people from becoming involved.
Therefore, the GSDF has to try to localize the fighting area
and the casualties.
               On the other hand, the GSDF is called as the
last resort of national defense for the Japanese people to
defend their country even if the homeland has turned into a
               This means that the GSDF must conduct the
defense operation in and around the waters edge or coastline
in order to minimize the extent of the enemy's invasion on
          (4)  Considering the short-term volunteer appoint-
ment system for the SDF at a time when this country
maintains the traditional practice of lifelong employment,
it is difficult to recruit members not only active duty but
also reserve.
               These facts make it more difficult for the
organization of units to work effectively,  systematically,
and to maintain sustainable manpower during an emergency
situation, even if they are mobilized.  Consequently,  the
GSDF has to make up for the short-term war strategy.
          (5)  From the Japan-U.S. cooperation standpoint
during an emergency situation, Japan relies upon the U.S.'s
nuclear deterrent power to counter nuclear threats, and also
depends on the U.S. to counterattack against the aggressor's
base.  The GSDF's mission is to take good advantage of the
country's geographical features and gain direct control over
               Therefore, when cooperation from the U.S. is
introduced, it is essential that the GSDF conducts the
organized fighting to assist the U.S. ground forces.
II.  The Posture of the GSDF
     A.   The Posture of the National Defense
          As I stated earlier, Japan's defense buildup in FY
1977 and thereafter has been carried out according to the
"Outline".  The "Outline" consists of (1) objectives, (2)
international situations, (3) basic defense concepts, (4)
the posture of national defense, (5) the posture of the
Ground,  Maritime and Air Self-Defense Force,  (6) basic
policies and matters to be considered in building up defense
capabilities.   The "Outline" also has an annexed table
specifying the scale of the organization and main equipment
which the SDF intends to possess.9
          In relation to the "Posture of National Defense",
Japan will maintain her defense capability covering the
following six points:10
          - Warning and surveillance
          - Countering indirect aggression and unlawful
actions by means of use of military power.
          - Countering direct military aggression
          - Command communications, transportation and rear
support services
          - Education and training of personnel
          - Disaster-relief operations.
     B.   The Posture of the Ground Self-Defense Force
          (1)  First of all, the "Outline" says that the
GSDF must "deploy balanced divisions and units in comformity
with Japan's geographical features.  This is so that it can
conduct  systematic defense operations  swiftly and
effectively from the outset of the aggression in any part of
               Accordingly, the GSDF deploys, in peace time,
12 divisions and two combined brigades (plus one armored
division for mobile operation). These divisions and brigades
have many functions necessary for ground combat, and are
capable of independent combat activities over a certain
period of time.
               A division is the largest organizational unit
and is considered the basic unit.  Being the key unit in the
army,  it is responsible for defending a specific area.
Meanwhile, an army is the largest organizational unit under
the direct control of the Director General of the Defense
Agency.  It is composed of the army headquarters, two to
four divisions, supporting units and is responsible for
defending a certain region against the enemy's direct and/or
indirect aggression.  The GSDF has five armies which are:
the Northern Army located in Sapporo, the Northeastern Army
in Sendai, the Eastern Army in Tokyo, the Middle Army in
Itami, and the Western Army in Kumamoto.
               There are two types of divisions in accor-
dance with the personnel strength.  They are a 9,000-man
Division and a 7,000-man Division which are composed of a
division headquarters, three to four infantry regiments, an
artillery regiment, a tank battalion and other units.  The
organization of a division is standardized because of its
role of conducting systematic defense operations in any
part of Japan.
          (2)  The "outline" stipulates that the GSDF should
possess at least one tactical unit each consisting of
various troops which are operated mainly as mobile power" 12
               The function of these troops is to cooperate
with divisions and brigades and support and complement them
as the occasion demands.  The GSDF now has an armored
division, an artillery brigade, an airborne brigade, and a
helicopter brigade to perform these functions.
               The armored division is mainly organized as a
tank corps.  With its mobility and firepower, it performs
mobile strike functions.  The 7th Division, an armored
division, was reorganized from a mechanized division in
               The artillery brigade generally supports
regional units and divisions with its firepower.
               The airborne brigade performs various
airborne operations such as a surprise drop on an important
               The helicopter brigade is equipped with
transport helicopters and conducts airlifting of combat
units and air supply.
          (3)  The GSDF should also "possess surface-to-air
missile units capable of low altitude air defense in
important areas".13  Therefore,  the GSDF has eight air
defense groups equipped with "Improved HAWK".  These units
are engaged in the air defense of the politico-economic
centers and are important places for transportation and
          (4)  The GSDF requires 180,000 servicemen in order
to establish an airtight defense system.14  They form the
necessary  organizations with the above-mentioned key
divisions and brigades as the nucleus.
          (5)  The outline of the organization of the GSDF
is shown in Table I.15
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II.  Present Conditions and Problems of the Division
     Since the divisions were organized in 1961,  the
equipment and weapons have been modernized year by year in
accordance with the development of scientific technology and
the economy of Japan.  However, not only the personnel
strength but also the structure has not changed.
     When organizing the division, their aim was that the
division would have almost equal capability as the U.S.S.R
motorized infantry division organized in 1959.  However, the
U.S.S.R. division has been reorganized several times and,
consequently,  the Japanese division has only about 40% of
the combat power as that of the U.S.S.R. today.
     The comparison of the divisional strength of the main
powers is shown in Table II.16   The main problems in
Japan's divisions are as follows:
     A.   Mobile Strike Power
          Mobile strike power plays an important role in
checking and repelling of invading forces equipped primarily
with tanks and armored vehicles and in destroying the
enemy's airborne troops.  Mobile strike power is attribut-
able to tanks which provide firepower, mobility, armored
protection, and constitute the main ground combat strength.
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          The Tank Battalion has about 60 tanks and consists
of four Tank Companies which are composed of three Tank
Platoons.  In comparison to other nations' divisions, the
number of tanks Japan has, which is about one fourth of what
other nations have, is extremely low.
          Regarding organization,  other nations' divisions
have enough units to combine with infantry units such as
regiments or battalions.  Japan's TKBn has enough Companies
to    combine with the Inf Regt but is not organized enough
to attach the TK Platoons to the Inf Companies.  It means a
combined arms team the size of a company cannot be organized
in the battlefield.
     B.   Mobile Power
          With the development and diversification of
weapons and equipment in recent years, battlefields tend to
become wide in area, three dimentional and shift quickly
from one place to another.  The GSDF must possess efficient
mobile power so that it may cover the long landing front
line with its limited force of 180,000 troops and repulse
the enemy attack.
          However, the infantry units which occupy more than
50% of the personnel strength of a division is not furnished
with armored cars or trucks for transportation.  In fact,
this is a pure infantry unit.  Certainly the transportation
unit is organic to the division but has the capability to
transport only one Infantry Rgt.  This situation does not
allow the division, especially the infantry unit, to move
without the support of the army.
     C.   Firepower
          Ground firepower such as field artillery and
mortars plays a very important role in modern warfare which
involves an increasingly wider area.
          In accordance with the major nations' tendency,
the GSDF is making efforts to improve its performance of
artillery by extending the firing range and increasing the
rapidity and accuracy of firing.  At the same time, it is
trying to introduce self-propelled guns to improve mobility
and strengthen armor protection.  However, the quantity of
artillery pieces is very low.  The number of guns stay
approximately at half as many as that of major nations.
          Antitank firepower has a very important role of
checking attacks from the mechanized enemy.  The antitank
firepower of the Infantry Rgt has been strengthened with the
introduction of 84 mm recoilless rifles.  However, only one
84 mm RR per Infantry Platoon is not enough to meet the
modern antitank battlefield.  In contrast, major nations
have more than one antitank gun and/or missile in their
Infantry Squad (or Section).
     D.   Anti-Aircraft Firepower
          Recently, the performance of aircraft has improved
remarkably and attacks from the air can seriously affect
ground combat.  Major nations are establishing air defense
network in depth, and trying to equip their ground forces
with greater numbers of advanced firearms such as surface-
to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns.  Consequently,
ground combat may be fought effectively even under heavy
attack from the air.
     The GSDF is making efforts to modernize the anti-
aircraft firepower of its divisions by equipping them with
Type-81 short-range SAMs and portable SAMs.  However, the
Air Defense Bn has only four sets of short SAMs and they
cannot give air coverage over the whole division area.  When
it comes to portable SAMs, the division possesses only about
20 sets and they are equipped only at the tank units and
field artillery units.
     E.   Other Functions
          In addition to the above-mentioned fighting
functions, each of the divisions should be able to carry out
such support functions as command and intelligence,  elec-
tronic communications, and mobile and logistics support in a
balanced manner.  However, the Japanese divisions do not
have the capability to carry out electronic warfare.
          Today, logistical-support should be improved in
accordance with introduction of new equipment so that the
new advanced weapons and equipment may perform fully and
          The  combat  service  support  capability  of
divisions, however, is not enough.  Especially the capabil-
ity of intermediate level maintenance on division furnished
equipment and of supply service support of Class III and V
are not enough.
III. The General Concept of the Reorganization of the Division
     A.   The Probability of Drastic Reorganization
          As I stated earlier,  the problems that the
division possesses now are (1) to increase the combat power
(2) to provide new functions, and (3) to increase the combat
service support capability.
          It is necessary to reorganize the division
structure dramatically in order to solve these problems.
When the personnel strength of the division is increased 1.5
times as much as it is now, and equipment is furnished
suitably for the organization, the division will possess an
almost equivalent capability quantitatively and qualita-
tively as compared to that of the U.S.S.R.  There would be,
however, many issues to be solved when we try to reorganize
the division.
Increase the authorized personnel strength of the GSDF
     When it comes to the reorganization of all 12
divisions, required personnel strength amounts to about
168,000.  Now the total personnel of the 12 divisions is
98,000.  The personnel strength of 180,000 men required for
the GSDF is authorized not only by the National Defense
Program Outline but also by the Defense Force Law.  If the
"Outline" is amended successfully, the strength will be
increased.  Otherwise, it is impossible because the basic
goals of the Mid-term Defense Program Estimate for FY 83-87
is to complete both quantitatively and qualitatively in
accordance with the "Outline".  In addition, it is very
difficult to amend the Defense Force Law to be approved by
the Diet even if the "Outline" is changed.
Fill the organization with the reserve personnel
     Today there are about 43,000 reserve troops in the
GSDF.  Even if the organization of the division is filled
with 43,000 reserves, there should still be an increase of
37,000 active duty men.  From the viewpoint of filling the
division with reserves, much controversy would arise about
combat readiness as well as the basic theory of the re-
Change the posture of the GSDF
     If we try to drastically reorganize the divisions
within the personnel strength framework of 12 divisions, we
have to cut down the number of divisions to eight.  Compared
to the total power of the 12 divisions, eight new divisions
would have more combat power than the 12 divisions. However,
each division is responsible not only for defending some
prefectures against agression but also for relief and rescue
operations in this area.  Therefore, reduction to eight
divisions seems to be very risky when taking the close
relationship within the civilian society in peace time and
the morale of the unit into consideration.  On the other
hand, the necessity of the 12 divisions in peace time as
stated in the "Outline" would be denied.  As discussed
above, this is not feasible now or in the near future.
     B.   The General Concept of the Reorganization of the
          Since it is very difficult to change the "180,000
men" and "12 divisions", we have to try to reorganize the
divisions within the extent of today's GSDF posture.  In
other words, there is now a way to trade off the personnel
from some units to others in the division so that we can
achieve (1) increased combat power,  (2) possess new
functions, and (3) increased combat service support
          First of all,  we could reduce the personnel
strength of the infantry units which have more than 50%.
When the Rifle Squad with an authorized strength of 11 men
is cut down to nine men, there arises two surplus personnel.
Consequently, we could get almost 95 more per regiment, and
about 380 per division.
          (1)  Increase mobile power and antitank firepower
               In return, it is imperative to equip one
armored personnel carrier and one 84 mmRR with the Infantry
Squad in order to increase the mobile power and antitank
firepower of the infantry unit.  Thus, with the reorganiza-
tion of the infantry unit, the antitank firepower would be
increased three times more than it is today, although the
personnel strength would be cut down.
          (2)  Increase mobile strike power
               To solve the problem of the Tank Company
consisting of three Tank Platoons making it impossible to
attach one platoon to each Infantry Company,  it is
indispensable to increase one more platoon per company.
Accordingly, the Tank Bn has about 75 tanks, which is 25%
more mobile strike power.  The required strength is about 90
          (3)  Increase artillery firepower
               From the standpoint of the characteristics of
the modern battlefield, we have to increase the artillery
firepower.  The Artillery Rgt  has four D S Bns (consisting
of two batteries) and one G S Bn (consisting of four bat-
teries).  When we increase one piece per each battery, the
Artillery Rgt  can be equipped with about 60 howitzers, 20%
more artillery firepower.  The necessary personnel is about
200 men.
          (4)  Increases air defense firepower
               It is necessary to increase the short-SAM
sets by at least two more in order to cover the whole
division operation area.  The air-coverage by six short-SAM
sets allow all ground combat units to maneuver safely from
air attacks.  In addition, for the self-air defense of each
unit, portable SAM has to be equipped in each such as: the
Infantry Company, the Engineer Company, etc.  Reorgainzation
of the Air Defense Bn requires about 60 personnel.
          (5)  Other functions
               After increasing the combat power, we still
have about 40 surplus personnel remaining.  We can organize
the EW unit and enhance the capability of the Ordnance Unit
and the Quartermaster Unit, according to priorities, with
the remaining surplus personnel.
IV.  Epilogue
     In accordance with this method, I believe that the
division will be able to have about 25% more combat power
than now and improve each function respectively.  I do not
think this concept can be adopted easily because the T.O.E.
of the division is established by the Self Defense Force Law
and the Cabinet Ordinance.  However, we have to explain the
necessity of modernizing the division in order to get the
national consensus.  Also, it is our role so that the GSDF
as the combat group can accomplish our mission in the
     Of course, I believe the drastic reorganization is the
best way to meet the pure necessity of defense operations.
We have to study more about better organization of the
division until the time comes that the domestic as well as
the international circumstances will allow us to reorganize
as such.
     1 Asagumo Shimbunsha (Press) Inc., Defense Handbook
1983, March 25, 1983, p. 118.
     2 Ibid.
     3 The Defense Agency, Japan, Defense of Japan 1982,
September, 1982, p. 356.
     4 Ibid.
     5 Asagumo Shimbunsha (Press) Inc., Defense Handbook
1983, March 25, 1983, p. 119.
     6 The Defense Agency, Japan, Defense of Japan 1982,
September, 1982, p. 362.
     7 Asagumo Shimbunsha (Press) Inc., Defense Handbook
1983, March 25, 1983, p. 118, p. 119, p. 121.
     8 The Defense Agency, Japan, Defense of Japan 1982
September, 1982, p. 55.
     9 Ibid, p. 293 through P.300.
     10 Ibid, p. 296 through p. 297.
     11 Ibid, p. 297.
     12 Ibid, p. 298.
     13 Ibid.
     14 Ibid, p. 300.
     15 Ibid, p. 378.
     16 Ibid, p. 97.
Asagumo Shimbunsha (Press) Inc.  Defense Handbook 1983,
     March 25, 1983.
Asagumo Shimbunsha (Press) Inc.  Military Balance 1982-1983.
     The International Institute for Strategic Studies,
     November 30, 1982.
The Defense Agency, Japan. Defense of Japan 1982, September

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