Confidential

Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade

Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade personnel in a naval training exercise
(Img; Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade personnel in a naval training exercise; via US Indo-Pacific Command on Flickr)

The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) is colloquially known as “Japan’s Marine Corps”.

The unit was initially proposed in 2013 within the 2013 National Defence Program Guidelines, due to insights gained in joint naval exercises with the US. As a result, Japanese Defence authorities ultimately founded the  Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade in 2018.

Currently, the unit is led by Commander Major General Takanori Hirata, and Deputy Commander Colonel Yuji Hirata.

Mission

The unit’s aim is to monitor maritime activity in the area and secure Japan’s coastline, as well as its many islands. This includes the “full-fledged amphibious operations for swift landing, recapturing, and securing in the case of illegal occupation of remote islands”.

Japan has some 6,900 islands and 30,000 kilometres of coastline, which therefore makes naval capabilities of paramount importance.

Long-standing disputes over the status of territories within the East and South China Seas have been exacerbated by recent Chinese advances towards the Senkaku islands. Both China and Japan have been looking to increase presence in the region for security purposes.

(Video; Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade take part in Iron Fist 2019; via USNI)

Due to the continuous ongoing joint drills and training exercises, many analysts see the ARDB as a method of strengthening the Japanese-US security alliance.

ARDB Resources

The ARDB has around 2,100 personnel. However, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) has planned to expand this to a membership of 3,400 personnel.

Similarly, the Brigade has significant resources at its disposal, including:

  • 52 AAV-7 Amphibious Vehicles
  • V-22 Ospreys Aircrafts
  • Maneuver Combat Vehicles
  • Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicles

In terms of arms, the ARDB is reported to have:

  • Machine guns, including:
    • Minimi 5.56mm
    • Minebea PM-9
  • Assault rifles, including:
    • Howa Type 89
    • Howa Type 20 with Beretta GLX-160 UBG (A new addition from 2020 onwards)
  • M24 SWS Sniper Rifle
  • 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
  • French MO-120-RT 120mm towed mortars
  • Type 96 anti-tank missiles

Tactics, Techniques & Procedures

The ARDB as a unit sits under the JGSDF, under the command of the Ground Component Command.

The following regiments comprise the ARDB:

  • Amphibious Regiment One
  • Amphibious Regiment Two
  • AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Regiment
  • Field Artillery Battalion
  • Reconnaissance Unit
  • Signal Unit
  • Engineer Unit
  • Logistics Support Unit

Drills and Training

The ARDB conducts regular joint training with the US Marine Corps. These training exercises began in 2018. The exercises continue, with regular cooperation between Japanese and US forces, as well as the Philippines.

An Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade helicopter is loaded with supplies
(Img; An Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade helicopter is loaded with supplies; via US Pacific Fleet on Flickr)

Recent Developments

In March 2021, Japan established a new unit, called the 301st Electronic Warfare Company. This unit, also working under the operational control of the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF). The unit is based at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo on Kyushu Island, alongside the ARDB. The 301st EWC will work closely with the ARDB to ensure the security of Japan’s Southern remote islands, in light of increasing tension in the area. The combined specialities of both the ARDB and the 301st EWC will no doubt significantly improve Japan’s operational capacity in these remote maritime regions.

Summary

The ARDB is a highly specialised naval unit of the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Forces. The unit aims to protect and reclaim disputed territories of strategic importance to Japan. However, China sees the new unit and increased operation with regional powers as an act of aggression, potentially causing further political instability.

Author

Abbi Clark

Abbi is a graduate in Chinese Studies from the University of Nottingham, specialising in Asian politics and International Relations. She is currently studying MA Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University London. Her research interests focus on geopolitics and modern defense issues.

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