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Japan to export stealth ship antennas to India as part of security cooperation

Japan plans to export stealth antennas – a system already in use on a new maritime self-defense destroyer – to India as the two countries step up their security cooperation, Japanese government sources said on Saturday.

If it materializes, it would be the first export case under the Japan-India Defense Equipment and Technology Transfer Agreement, which was signed in 2015.

The expected export is intended to prompt India to reduce its dependence on Russia for military equipment and strengthen defense ties between Japan and India amid China’s military rise, the sources said.

Japan is eager to increase defense and technology exports to boost its domestic defense industry, even as it imposes strict conditions on its war-renouncing constitution.

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For example, the three overarching principles regarding the movement of defense equipment say that movement should not be used for offensive purposes, but should be used for tracking or searching for mines.

One system that Japan plans to export to India is called the Unicorn, which houses numerous antennas in a horn-shaped structure. It is already installed on the MSDF’s new FFM-class destroyer, commissioned in 2022.

By gathering the antennas under a single structure, the Unicorn system can reduce the reflection of enemy radio waves. On previous Japanese destroyers, each antenna was displayed on a mast.

Japan and India agreed to cooperate on the transfer of the Unicorn system when their foreign and defense ministers met in Tokyo in September for a so-called two-plus-two meeting, the sources said.

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Japan is concerned about China’s growing maritime assertiveness, and India has a long-running border dispute with the Asian power.

Japan and India are part of the “Quad”, a four-way security framework that also includes Australia and the United States.

At the two-plus-two meeting, Japan told India that it supports the South Asian country’s efforts to diversify its arms procurement sources, the sources said.

After the meeting, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Yokosuka MSDF base in Kanagawa Prefecture. The minister is believed to have inspected the Unicorn system fitted to the new Kumano destroyer and was likely briefed on its capabilities.

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Apart from India, Japan has signed similar defense equipment transfer agreements with 11 countries: the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The deals came as the government led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014 relaxed rules on the transfer of defense equipment and technology in the first major overhaul of the country’s long-standing arms embargo.

Japan aims to increase arms exports, but only one contract has been signed with the Philippines for a finished product – air defense radars. The slow start of such exports is partly due to high prices.

Ahead of a planned review of the National Security Strategy, the country’s long-term security and diplomatic guidelines, at the end of this year the ruling Liberal Democratic Party proposed easing restrictions to allow more equipment to be exported.

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