Japan's Defense Ministry has released its largest-ever budget request for next fiscal year, partly to finance the launch of a space monitoring unit.
The ministry decided at a meeting attended by Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya on Friday to request about 5.3 trillion yen, or about 50 billion dollars, for fiscal 2020, which starts next April. The figure is up 1.2 percent from this year's budget.
The ministry is seeking nearly 500 million dollars in space-related outlays. It considers outer space a priority domain for boosting defense capabilities.
Officials plan to launch a 20-member unit in the Air Self-Defense Force to monitor suspicious satellites. They also plan to acquire equipment to detect jamming of communication and other satellites.
About 30 million dollars is to be requested to remodel the Maritime Self-Defense Force's largest vessel, the flat-decked Izumo, into a de facto aircraft carrier. Another 800 million dollars would cover the purchase of six F-35B stealth fighter jets to be used on the ship.
About 115 million dollars is sought to prepare for the planned deployment of the US-made missile defense system Aegis Ashore through acquisition of launch equipment and training of personnel.
The request also includes items whose specific cost estimates have been deferred until the year-end. They include developing a successor to the aging F-2 fighter jet and realigning US forces in Japan.