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Jointness in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces

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Journal article

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Prior to World War II, the Japanese imperial army and navy lived a cat-and-dog existence. They individually reported to the emperor and there was no organization to coordinate their efforts. Their perceived threats and strategies were also different. The army had traditionally looked north toward Russia while the navy focused on America, especially after the Russo-Japanese War. Both services maneuvered for larger shares of the budget. Even war did not bring them closer together. The navy never informed the army of its crushing defeat at Midway, and the army was preparing to build its own submarines by the end of the war because it did not trust the navy. After the conflict, Japan drew from experience and established the Self Defense Force SDF. The National Defense Academy, established in 1953, adopted a joint education system. The joint staff council coordinated ground, maritime, and air staff offices. Joint training included command post exercises, maritime transportation of ground forces, and maritime and air exercises. A central procurement office managed acquisition for Ground, Maritime, and Air Self Defense Forces. Not all the lessons of the interwar period and World War II were thoroughly learned. Jointness among the services was not fully developed. Threat perceptions and strategies still differed. The Ground Self Defense Force GSDF continued to primarily look north, while the Maritime Self Defense Force MSDF tended to focus on sea lines of communication, extending southeast and southwest from Japan. Each service built its own communication system, target symbols, and message formats. As a result, they could not communicate among themselves on common secure voice devices. Recent efforts to improve jointness in the Japanese Self Defense Forces offer an opportunity to look ahead and identify ways that these initiatives can contribute to combined operations.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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