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Japan launching defense tech research agency, advancing railgun project


Japan plans to create a research agency by 2024 to accelerate defense technology development. 

The agency will be modeled after the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and its Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), according to Shigenori Mishima, vice commissioner and chief technology officer at Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency. DARPA is the U.S. Defense Department’s central research and development arm; DIU focuses on rapidly fielding and scaling commercial technology across the U.S. military.  

The new Japanese agency “will identify technology that can quickly be integrated into future warfare,” Mishima said during the March 2023 Pacific Operational Science & Technology Conference organized by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Japan also plans to partner with like-minded nations to develop cutting-edge technologies, according to National Defense, NDIA’s magazine. “The security environment around Japan is growing increasingly severe and at an unprecedented pace, with neighboring countries strengthening their military capabilities,” Mishima said.

By 2027, Japan plans to spend the equivalent of 2% of its gross domestic product on defense, which includes boosting annual spending on defense research and development to U.S. $26 billion, a fourfold increase over 2022, Mishima said.

Research priorities include anti-ship missiles for island defense, updated surface-to-ship missiles and hypervelocity gliding projectile and hypersonic missiles, National Defense reported.

Japan, for example, is developing electromagnetic railgun technology, pictured, that uses magnetic fields to launch nonexplosive projectiles capable of targeting ships and more, Mishima confirmed. 

“The Japanese Defense Ministry will develop a means to intercept hostile missiles using magnetically powered projectiles,” the Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asia reported in January 2022, “as the nation scurries to respond to the hypersonic weapons being developed by China, North Korea and Russia.”

Japan has allocated more than U.S. $56 billion to complete the railgun within the next decade, Nikkei Asia reported.

Japan has been developing railgun technology for at least eight years, working in part with the U.S. Navy. In 2016, Japan tested a prototype railgun that launched a projectile at 7,193 kilometers per hour, Popular Science magazine reported.

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