* MAKUHARI, Japan -- Five years after the Japanese government lifted restrictions on arms exports, the nation's military contractors have yet to make major breakthroughs in overseas markets, experts and officials noted at a conference, billed as the first fully integrated defense trade show held in the country.
That is despite having a variety of high-technology expertise and goods that could greatly benefit its allies, and in turn, help partner nations compete with China's rapid weapon systems advancements.
Hirokazu Hokazono, deputy commissioner and chief defense scientist at the Japanese Ministry of Defense's Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, said, "The security environment is changing at extremely high speed." More powerful regional rivals such as China are introducing technology for cross-domain operations and Japan must keep pace, he said at the DSEI Japan conference held near Tokyo. Like the Pentagon, the MoD has identified cyber, the electromagnetic spectrum and space as potential areas of conflict along with sea, air and land.
The ATLA has identified six top R&D priorities in which the ministry must invest, he said. They are: cyber; underwater technologies; electronic warfare; hypersonics; persistent wide-area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and network operations.
The goal is for the Japan Self-Defense Force to transform itself into a "multi-domain defense force," and strengthen the ability for the Japan-U.S. alliance to deter and counter threats, he added. To do that, its military research and development must shift focus from platform-centric to a "capability oriented" approach, he said.
Most of the advanced technologies Japan is known for--such as material sciences and robotics--originate in the commercial sector. The military needs to harness these new products and integrate them into its defense systems, Hokazono said.
Meanwhile, China is advancing its military capabilities rapidly. If Japan can't keep up, it may lose its edge over potential rivals, he said. "What is most important is that we sweep those technologies up and integrate them into our defense technology systems," he said.
There is a need for better cooperation between the military, industry, academia and allied countries, he added.
As for partner nations and industry, the trade show demonstrated that there were many U.S., European, Middle Eastern and Australian companies willing to make the trip to the Far East to do business.