Japan’s 2014 defense budget request asks for a 3% increase over the 2013 budget, continuing the sudden upward trend set in motion by right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his December 2012 return to power.

The previous center-left government planned a 1.3% decrease in defense spending, which had already seen 10 consecutive contractions since 2003.

The main focus areas remain the same: defense of the remote southwestern islands facing China, ballistic missile defense against North Korea, and defense against guerrilla/commando raids. The latter is seen as a doubtful assumption to justify some questionable army programs, notably a newly unveiled 8 x 8 Maneuver Combat Vehicle carrying a 105mm gun.

A dedicated amphibious unit would be created for the defense of islands in the China Sea, and two U.S. AAV7s would be acquired as test vehicles. A small sum also is budgeted to investigate the possibility of introducing Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotors and new airborne early-warning aircraft, with a view to eventually replacing Grumman E-2Cs based in Okinawa. Kawasaki is launching a campaign to sell an AEW version of its four-jet P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.

If approved, big-ticket items in the 2014 budget include four Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters at ¥69.3 billion ($706 million), four Kawasaki P-1s at ¥77.3 billion ($787 million), the second 5,000-ton 25DD general-purpose destroyer at ¥73.3 billion ($747 million) and the tenth improved Soryu-class submarine at ¥51.3 billion ($522 million).

Major research and development programs in the 2014 budget request include a new ground-based fire-control radar to counter stealthy targets such as the Chinese J-20, and key technologies for a future indigenous stealth fighter — such as one-piece fastener-free airframe structures and small-diameter, high-thrust “slim” engines technologies. The defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute displayed a fighter concept it calls 24DMU (2012 digital mockup) at a publicity event in Tokyo in late October. The 24DMU looks like a mixture of the Sukhoi T-50 and Northrop YF-23, and the TRDI says the concept was used in air combat simulations to determine requirements for a future fighter to replace the Mitsubishi F-2.