As justification for juggling recent legislation, Japanese industry is pushing the government there to establish the country’s independence from the U.S. space-based, intelligence-gathering programs.
Some politicians are calling for an indigenous capability so that Japan doesn’t have to rely on the U.S. for shared early warning and other space-based support, says a senior U.S. official who focuses on Japanese defense activities. So, decisions over the country’s new space polices over the next few months will indicate the balance between the power of government and industry.
The Diet, or parliament, passed a new space policy law last spring. "It was then revised by Diet members at the instigation of defense industry," the official says.
If the upcoming decisions are a tentative yes and action is promulgated on the civilian side, that means a rational, capabilities-based approach to defense-decision making still controlled by civilians, according to the official. "If the decision is to develop duplicative satellite systems at high expense and give the bill to the MoD, it's indicative that the rear-guard of industrial interest that brought us the F-2 still has some bite.”
The F-2 is considered a higher cost F-16 variant due to domestic demands.
A test for the new rules is expected to be how these new space policies are interpreted, say U.S. experts who closely watch and analyze Japan’s activities.
Space has been an attractive focus for Japanese industry since the first North Korean Taepodong, long-range ballistic missile launch in 1998, which triggered a $5 billion program to procure dual-use, intelligence gathering satellites. The revised space law reorganizes how Japan conducts space policy, which right now doesn’t involve the Ministry of Defense (MoD).