A bill has just cleared the Diet (Japan’s parliament) that will add a new branch to the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF). The new branch will be a “space force.”
Will the “space force” have giant robots, or “mecha,” like in countless Japanese anime and video games? No, at least not in the near future. However, it will focus on cleaning up space junk (which was non-existent in the mid-20th century, but is now starting to become a problem, a major threat to future space launches). It will also focus on cyber security and satellite monitoring.
“Space Force” is the term for the new branch of the US Military, championed by President Donald Trump, which already has 16,000 personnel. However, the Japanese Self-Defense Force branch will actually be called the “Space Domain Mission Unit.” In comparison to its US counterpart, it will only have 20 members by mid-2020, although there are near-future goals to increase this number to 100. As the two countries work towards improving their space-based military capabilities, the US President has announced a plan for cooperation between Japan and the US in exploring space.
These new military branches may sound cutting-edge, like science fiction, but actually, other countries have proposed similar ideas in past decades, and Russia actually had just such an organization in the 1990s and 2000s. France proposed a similar organization by which the European Union could have an alliance focused on space.
The reactions of Japanese-speaking netizens were mixed. Here are some memorable quotes from various social media services:
“Instead of making a space force, shouldn’t we straighten out our current government first?”
“Is this the newest EDF release?” EDF = Earth Defense Force, a well-known third-person shooter (TPS) game in which the player fights against invading aliens
“Only 100 [personnel]? Isn’t that a little too low?”
“We finally get our version of Star Wars, huh”