A US MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft lands aboard the Japanese helicopter destroyer Hyuga. (Photo/US Navy)
The Western Army Infantry Regiment of the Japan Ground Self Defense has been tasked with a new mission; to fight amphibious warfare over the East China Sea and confront the People's Liberation Army over the disputed Diaoyu (Diaoyutai or Senkaku) islands, reports the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po.
Facing territorial disputes with China, South Korea and Russia, the Japanese defense ministry stated that the plan to establish an amphibious regiment will be mentioned in the new National Defense Program Guidelines published this December. Currently, there are only 700 military personnel serving under the Western Army Infantry Regiment based in Nagasaki in southern Japan, but using the US Marine Corps as a model, it will be expanded into a unit of 3,000 men.
The regiment consists of three light infantry companies and is equipped with 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifles and French MO-120-RT 120mm towed mortars. With the arrival of AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles purchased from the United States, a platoon of troops from the unit will also soon receive armored protection to conduct beach landings.
Tokyo is considering the purchase of 20 V-22 Ospreys tiltrotor aircraft from the United States to provide air support to the Western Army Infantry Regiment during potential military operations. The aircraft will be able to transfer the unit quickly to the disputed islands and react to a Chinese attack. In addition, the AH-64 attack helicopters and CH-47 heavy-lift helicopters of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade can mobilize as well, the paper said.
The Diaoyu islands are controlled by Japan, which refers to them as Senkaku, and also claimed by Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyutai.