Defense Ministry seeks nearly $50 bil. budget

Japan's Defense Ministry has finalized a budget request of nearly 50 billion dollars for fiscal 2022.

The ministry endorsed the 5.47 trillion yen-request in an online meeting on Tuesday.

The figure is about 10 billion yen, or more than 91 million dollars, less than what it sought for fiscal 2021.

The request includes about 92 million dollars to acquire two vessels to transport supplies and personnel to remote southwestern islands, amid China's growing maritime presence.

It also includes about 345 million dollars to convert the Ground Self Defense Force's guided missiles into long-range cruise missiles that can be launched from destroyers and fighter jets.

The ministry is also seeking a record 2.9 billion dollars for research and development, noting that other countries are putting cutting-edge technology to military use.

The funds would cover, among other things, designing of next-generation fighter jets and their engines, and research on artificial intelligence technology to enable satellite constellations to locate and track missiles.

The ministry plans to invest heavily in potentially game-changing technologies. They include underwater drones for maritime surveillance and drones that can remain stationary overhead to detect and track missiles with irregular trajectories.

Experts have warned that Japan will lag further behind in state-of-the-art military technology unless it allocates more funds to research and development.