Written by Skygate Technologies
On his recent visit to Japan Air Self-Defense-Force (Airforce) Hofu Kita Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture (southwest Japan), Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi officially announced that the 2nd Space Operations Squadron will be formed and stationed at the base in FY2022. What are the 2nd Space Squadron's missions and how are they different from the 1st Squadron?
Japan first defined its stance on space development in the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), and the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) back in 2013, and it outlined its initial intent of developing SSA capabilities. In 2015, with an enactment of the National Space Strategy, the Ministry of Defense formally began joint SSA missions with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and other government agencies, with a goal of competing the integration by 2018.
Meanwhile, the designing and planning of the "Space Force" undertook during 2016, the plan was fully approved and funded in 2017, and so began the facility and personnel development. On May 18th, 2020, then-Defense Minister Taro Kono officially announced the commissioning of the Japan's 1st Space Operations Squadron.
The core mission of the 1st Squadron, based in JASDF (Airforce) Fuchu Air Base in Tokyo (central Japan), has been monitoring satellites, space debris, and other objects above the Asia-Pacific region and warning the US & Western allies and other international organizations in case of possible space collision. The 2nd Squadron will be based in JASDF Hoku Kita Air Base in Yamaguchi (southwestern Japan) near a decommissioned JMSDF (Navy) communication station and its core mission will differ from the 1st Squadron in two aspects; the 2nd Squadron will be monitoring significantly smaller targets and will also be conducting EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) Surveillance.
The detail of JASDF's SSA capability is largely undisclosed to the public for obvious reasons, but the 1st Squadron is said to have the capability of monitoring objects sized less than 30cm (1ft) at a altitude of 36,000km (118,000,000ft), whereas the 2nd Squadron is speculated to have the capability to capture objects sized less than 10cm (4in) at a similar altitude, setting itself on par with the US capability.
Also, when Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi was asked about the detail of the 2nd Squadron's mission at the press conference at which he announced the commissioning of the squadron, Minister Kishi clearly and firmly stated that "the 2nd Space Squadron's important mission includes Electromagnetic Interference Surveillance in the region" before mentioning its SSA responsibility, hinting at active electromagnetic interference activities in the region.
Japan typically renews its National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), and the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) every decade, and the current "Three Documents" as some call them are set to "expire" at the end of 2023. However, recently elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced in October at his inaugural policy speech before the parliament that he will revise the Three Documents ahead of schedule in order to better respond to and prepare for worsening national security situations in the Asia Pacific region as well as major global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. The government is set to complete the revision by the end of 2022, and major shifts and pushes are expected especially in the fields of space, cyber, and electromagnetic security.
1: Ministry of Defense (https://www.mod.go.jp/j/press/news/2021/11/12d.pdf)
2: Ministry of Education (mext.go.jp/kaigisiryo/content/000034833.pdf)
3: City of Sanyo Onoda (city.sanyo-onoda.lg.jp/uploaded/attachment/37748.pdf)
4: Kaneki, Toshinori, "防衛大臣が名言「第2宇宙作戦隊」がなぜ山口県に？「宇宙自衛隊」は誕生するか." Yahoo! Japan News. November 2021, 1-2, news.yahoo.co.jp/articles/9b8c2c88e7e974fa311969544ad039208462bbd6?page=1.
Cover: JASDF, CC BY 4.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92763236
Photo 1: Ministry of Defense (facebook.com/mod.japn/)
Photo 2 : JASDF, CC BY 4.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92763236
Photo 4 : Ministry of Defense (facebook.com/mod.japn/)