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Japan and Military Space Projects

Japan's Defense Ministry launched its first space operations unit to protect Japanese satellites in outer space on 18 May 2020. A ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Space Operations Squadron was held at the ministry in central Tokyo. Defense Minister Kono Taro handed the squadron's flag to Ajiki Toshihide, who heads the roughly 20-member team. The new space unit, set up at an Air Self-Defense Force base in Tokyo's Fuchu City, will monitor movements of suspicious satellites and space debris to protect Japan's satellites.

To help support the unit's activities, a radar to monitor outer space will be built in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan. The team will also work with Japan's space agency JAXA and the US military to establish a space surveillance system which is expected to become fully operational in three years. Ministry officials say that satellites are indispensable for gathering intelligence, communication, and grasping accurate positional information. Squadron chief Ajiki said he plans to initially train the members with simulators and other equipment. He also said he hopes to discuss how to share information with counterparts in the United States as the US operates a global space-surveillance network.

Japan's 1969 space law prohibited Japan participating in any militiary space activities. Should national policy be modified to allow military photographic reconnaissance systems, Japanese officials would decide whether to develop domestic spacecraft, procure a foreign space system, or merely purchase high resolution imagery products from commercial vendors. In 1994 Japan began serious consideration of redefining its long-held policy prohibiting the use of space for military purposes. The Japanese Defense Agency, Japan's Space Activities Commission, and the non-governmental Defense Research Center all issued findings that non-lethal, particularly photographic reconnaissance, military space missions were a logical extension of Japan's space and national defense activities.

The enactment of the Basic Space Law passed by the Diet in May 2008, has made it clearer that the development and use of space by Japan shall be carried out under the pacifism enshrined in the Constitution of Japan in compliance with international commitments. The law also stipulates that the Government of Japan shall take necessary measures to promote the development and use of space that contributes to ensuring the peace and security of the international community, as well as to the security of Japan.

On 09 January 2009 the Ministry of Defense issued the "Basic Guidelines for Space Development and Use of Space". With the establishment and enactment of the Basic Space Law in 2008, the development and use of space was provided to be conducted in accordance with the international agreements and in accordance with the principle of pacifism enshrined in the Constitution of Japan. Also, it was stipulated that the government of Japan would be responsible to take the necessary steps to promote measures that contribute to ensuring the peace and security of the international community as well as Japan’s national security. Furthermore, the Strategic Headquarters for Space Development was established within the Cabinet in order to promote measures concerning the development and use of space in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

Based on the Basic Space Law, the Cabinet’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy established the Basic Plan on Space Policy in June 2009; in January 2013, the new Basic Plan on Space Policy was established, which emphasized the three issues: “national security and disaster management”, “industrial development”, and “progress in frontier areas including space science.” Moreover, in July 2012, the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy was established within the Cabinet Offi ce, engaging in the planning, formulation, and coordination of policy on the development and use of outer space.

Information gathering, warning, and surveillance by satellites can make use of diverse kinds of sensors such as optical sensors, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors and infrared sensors, and is extremely beneficial in early detection of signs of various contingencies and in assessing the local situation to facilitate international peace cooperation activities.

Satellite communications (SATCOM) can cover a wide range of area with a combination of relatively simple terrestrial infrastructure, and excels in broadcasting capability and invulnerability to natural disasters. It is one of the flexible means of communication as it is immune to communication jamming due to topography. Also, as a new operational need, there is an increasing demand for accurate command and control and prompt information sharing, which are essential for the smooth performance of duties among multiple units. SATCOM is a major piece of infrastructure in terms of meeting such needs.

Space-based positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) system enables positioning regardless of time and place, free of terrestrial infrastructure. Its use is not limited to navigation control and location identification, but also includes improving targeting accuracy, monitoring and controlling battlefields, and synchronization, among other possibilities.

The SDF uses the US’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites in its positioning equipment. Their usages include positioning, precision guiding, navigation and aviation control, and timing. In particular, military codes are employed in the equipment developed by the US for military purposes, including guided missiles that require highly precise positioning information. Civilian codes are used in other equipment. Currently, the US is suspending to degrade the accuracy of civilian codes. As a result, precision on par with that of military codes is ensured for civilian codes as well.

The Ministry of Defense and the SDF also use military codes for equipment such as guided missiles that require highly precise positioning information. There is no particular issue to be addressed as long as the US is operating the code. On the other hand, there is a concern in the future that a situation such as system trouble for civilian code may affect positioning, navigation, and aviation control by the Ministry of Defense and the SDF. In light of this, consideration is needed on expanding the use of military codes.

The vulnerability of the GPS to jamming, etc., has also been pointed out. In this regard, airplanes, for example, use the GPS for aviation in combination with the Inertial Navigation System (INS) and other systems, making it possible for them to continue flight without the GPS. As such, we need to continue to maintain and developing means that do not depend on the GPS.

Meteorological satellites enable prompt, constant, and seamless gathering of meteorological information that may affect the activities and missions of SDF units inside and outside Japan. The Ministry of Defense and the SDF have been obtaining meteorological satellite images of inside and outside Japan as weather information helpful for the operation of units.

At the current moment, meteorological information needed for the operation of units is obtained from existing meteorological satellites and terrestrial weather observation networks controlled by the Ministry of Defense and the SDF. Nevertheless, the next-generation Geostationary Meteorological Satellites (Himawari-8 and 9) should also become a source of necessary information.

In January 2007, China conducted an experiment to destroy a worn out satellite by directly hitting it with an anti-satellite weapon launched from the Earth. This has produced a large volume of space debris, hindering space activities in orbit.

To ensure the safe and stable development and use of space, and to respond to the future trends of development and use of space by other countries, we need to consider steps to protect our satellites and other measures with an eye to cost effectiveness and technological feasibility. Meanwhile, Japan needs to proactively consider measures to safeguard information, etc., from intelligence activities of other countries using satellites, such as artificial fog or smoke screens generated on the Earth, for example.

In Japan, there is no precedent for the involvement by the Ministry of Defense in space programs of other ministries, excepting the involvement in the IGS. For the Ministry of Defense to efficiently cultivate space-related technologies and obtain data and information, it must consider exchanges with other institutions in Japan possessing abundant technological knowledge, technological bases, and related facilities, etc., in space-related areas. Such exchanges are expected to elevate Japan’s technological standards by generating interconnectedness and synergy between defense technologies and civilian technologies, thereby catalyzing dynamic technological cycles and applications.

By mid-2014 the Japanese Defense Ministry was planning to establish surveillance forces of the Aerospace-Defense Forces by about 2019. Under the plan, the task force's initial responsibility woujld include monitoring space junk floating in Earth's orbit and satellite protection from collisions with dangerous debris. Force development plan has been Japan's Defense Ministry added strategic use of their space, serial promulgating an amendment to the principles of non-military activity in space. Tokyo is considering combining forces with a space surveillance unit designated under the non-Defense Forces of Japan.

Space surveillance force of Japan would be operated through a system of radars and telescopes in Okayama district on the island of Honshu, under the direction of the coordinate Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Agency and Space Development. The equipment monitored by the Japan Space Forum, an advisory group specializing in aerospace coordinating related activities among industry, academia and government of this country.

Japan would give American troops the expected information obtained through the operation of the monitoring universe forces towards strengthening bilateral cooperation in this field. The two sides began closely monitoring space debris problem since 2007, when China tested destroying their satellite missile. In talks on cooperation in the development of space in May 2014, both Japan and the United States government pledged to increase cooperation by monitoring space debris and satellites quickly agreed to conduct interactive activities in the field of space.




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