US, Japan Plan Joint Ship and Aircraft Repair, Missile Production and Logistics

June 12, 2024
A plan to repair U.S. Navy vessels in Japan moved forward and planners from both countries hope to develop additional programs for military aircraft, missile production and logistics.

Jun. 11—TOKYO — A plan to repair U.S. Navy vessels in Japan moved forward Tuesday and planners from both countries hope to develop additional programs for military aircraft, missile production and logistics.

A group working to allow Japanese shipyards to repair and maintain U.S. warships rather than send them back to American shipyards — which can take months or years — met for the first time at the New Sanno Hotel.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel in opening remarks emphasized that the time saved would be essential in the event of a "kinetic situation," or an armed conflict.

"I think it's worth repeating that committees do not project deterrence; meetings do not produce preparations," Emanuel told the gathering of about 100 people. The real goal is to execute a plan that would "leverage each other's capacity to enhance each other's collective deterrence."

Additional working groups will meet at an undisclosed date to discuss implementing similar programs for military aircraft, missile production and creating a sustainable supply chain for those programs, according to Masaki Fukasawa, head of Japan's Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency.

" Japan and the U.S. have started taking steps towards the same goal," he said during his opening remarks. These ideas would create a mutually beneficial relationship by improving the U.S. military's readiness and improving Japan's resilience, Fukasawa said.

Emanuel has advocated for a ship maintenance program with Japan since at least July; he publicly announced the project's initiation in January.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is drafting the next National Defense Authorization Act, which would fund the projects under discussion by the working groups, Emanuel told reporters after his opening remarks.

The first U.S.-Japan Defense Industrial Cooperation, Acquisition and Sustainment Forum, a two-day event aimed at accelerating military industrial cooperation between the two countries, concluded Monday.

William LaPlante, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, and Fukasawa, his Japanese counterpart, announced during the forum plans to establish the broader working groups, according to a Japanese Defense Ministry news release Monday.

Emmanuel on Tuesday emphasized that competition with the rapidly growing Chinese military, a lack of U.S. shipyards and a prominent backlog in ship maintenance are major concerns for the U.S. and Japan.

"Our shipyards back in the States are on average 4,000 days behind on repair and maintenance, let alone competition for new submarines, new aircraft carriers," he said.

Conversely, China has approximately 370 warships now and is expected to grow its navy to 430 in less than six years, Emanuel said.

The ability to match China "ship for ship" is critical, he said.

Emanuel said he could not state how many or what types of U.S. ships would be eligible for repairs and maintenance at Japanese shipyards, but nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers would be "off the table," he told reporters.

Emanuel also shrugged off questions about potential staffing issues due to Japan's aging and shrinking population and said the infrastructure to support U.S. military vessels already exists in Japan's numerous shipyards. Those shipyards also have a reputation of being timely, under budget and capable of high-quality work, he said.

The U.S. once operated up to 13 public shipyards for military production and maintenance, but now has only four. To match China's naval expansion, Japan's shipyards are essential, Emanuel said.

"Even if you were to say today, right now, that we'll create more [shipyards] in the United States, it would take you years to get them up and running — and those are years we can't afford," he told reporters.

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