TOKYO — Japan plans to integrate the information systems of the three branches of the Self-Defense Forces into one centralized cloud as part of a broader effort to help them work together more effectively.
The new cloud gathers information from the inventory into action plans that can be accessed by authorized persons of the Ministry of Defense and SDF officers if necessary. To improve security, it operates on a closed network that is isolated from external networks, including the Internet.
The transition, expected to begin in fiscal year 2023, follows a revised security document released last year that emphasises improving joint operations. Japan plans to establish a permanent joint command within a few years to coordinate with the US military, and Tokyo hopes that effective information sharing between its domestic forces will facilitate cooperation with the ally.
Land, air, and sea forces now manage their information separately. The SDF has a centralized command system that allows information to be gathered in the event of a conflict, disaster, or other emergency, but it must be requested from each station on a case-by-case basis, which takes time.
A centralized cloud puts key information in one place where it can be regularly managed. In addition to improving information sharing, Japan hopes that this integration will reduce the cost of operating the systems.
It also allows the SDF Cyber Defense Unit to strengthen its defense against attacks. Multiple systems in use now give potential attackers more targets, requiring more effort to defend and creating greater risks even within closed SDF networks. A centralized cloud brings these defense together in one place.
Backup servers ensure that SDF can continue to operate even if an attack shuts down the main servers.
The 2023 budget proposal, which begins in April, earmarks 3 billion ($314million) for the transition phase. Japan plans to gradually transition by 2027 to avoid overloading the system.
But some observers say that time frame is too long, warning that China could invade Taiwan by 2027, as the US military originally predicted.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping secured a third term as leader of the Communist Party last October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Beijing was “determined to move much faster towards reunification”. A US Air Force general recently ordered preparations for war with China in 2025.