Western Army Infantry Regiment

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Western Army Infantry Regiment
Seibu Hōmen Futsū-ka Rentai
US Navy 110225-N-1911J-160 Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force launch rigid-hull inflatable boats from the well deck of USS Makin Isl.jpg
WAIR troopers on the deck of USS Makin Island (LHD 8)
Active 2002 - Present
Country  Japan
Branch Flag of JSDF.svg Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Type Light Infantry
Role Amphibious operations
Size ~ 680
Part of JGSDF Western Army.svg Western Army
Garrison/HQ Sasebo, Nagasaki
Nickname WAIR
Commanders
Current
commander
Colonel Akira Kurosawa[1]

The Western Army Infantry Regiment (西部方面普通科連隊 Seibu Hōmen Futsū-ka Rentai), is a (battalion sized) Japanese light infantry regiment that specializes in amphibious operations. Its main purpose is to defend remote islands in Japanese territorial waters,[2] specifically to the Kyushu region, including Okinawa.[3] The regiment is based at Sasebo in Nagasaki.[3][4]

History[edit]

A WAIR soldier holds his binoculars while kneeling on the ground during a training mission with US Marines in Camp Pendleton.

The WAIR was created on March 27, 2002 in order to defend remote islands in the western part of Japan in case of an invasion or enemy attacks, although they are also mandated to assist in search and rescue efforts in case their assistance is needed.[2][5] It consists of Ranger-trained JGSDF soldiers and at the initial formation, it consisted of 600 soldiers.[3]

In August 2010, a proposal was being considered by the then Japanese government to convert a conventional [battalion strength] regiment from either the 8th Division or the 15th Brigade into a "US-style" amphibious unit,[6][7] effectively giving the Western Army a battalion of marines for dealing with contingencies.

US Navy 120208-N-KB563-104 Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conduct small arms weapons training aboard the amphibious assault ship US.jpg

In 2013, troops from the Western Army Infantry Regiment deployed from the JS Hyuga and JS Shimokita for an amphibious warfare exercise in California.[8]

Possible sister unit[edit]

WAIR soldiers lift inflatable rafts during a training exercise alongside a US Marine, who is serving as their Japanese interpreter.

As of June 2013, as part of an ongoing expansion of defense capabilities in the Western Army's area of responsibility, the MOD were considering creating a special "isle assault unit", whose role would be the recapture of remote Japanese islands that had been invaded by a foreign power.[9] It would share this mission with the pre-existing Western Army Infantry Regiment, itself currently undergoing an expansion in manpower and equipment (e.g. increase in authorised strength to 680 effectives, & adding (initially 4) AAVP-7A1's to its TOE). Equipment for the new unit on the other hand, may ultimately include the Maneuver Combat Vehicle and the Light-weight Combat Vehicle (LCV) System alongside MV-22 Ospreys.[10]

Its growth is part of the National Defense Programme Guidelines that were adopted by the Japanese government in order to ascertain the JGSDF's capabilities in amphibious warfare in defending its islands in case of a future war involving Japan, which can bolster the Japanese-American military alliance.[11]

If stood up, the new unit together with the WAIR would form a major part of the Western Army's first response to a hostile incursion in the more remote parts of its AOR.

Training[edit]

Potential recruits for WAIR must be Ranger-qualified before they are accepted.[5] Once in the unit, WAIR soldiers are trained in reconnaissance, survival skills and techniques.[5]

Equipment[edit]

WAIR forces are equipped with light infantry weapons, including mortars and Japanese-made military trucks such as the Mitsubishi Type 73 Light Truck.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Corporal Elyssa Quesada. "Coronado hosts Japanese amphibious training". Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  2. ^ a b Fumiaki Sonoyama (2012-10-28). "GSDF wants amphibious capabilities of U.S. Marines". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  3. ^ a b c "WAiR (ワイアー):陸上自衛隊西部方面普通科連隊" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2005-12-01. 
  4. ^ Takateru Doi (2010-09-01). "GSDF 'Marines' planned to defend isles". The Asahi Shimbum Digital. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  5. ^ a b c 西部方面普通科連隊の新編 (in Japanese). Japanese Ministry of Defense. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  6. ^ "15th Brigade". Global Security. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  7. ^ Kyle Mizokami. "It’s official: Japan is getting Marines". New Pacific Institute. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  8. ^ Spitzer, Kirk (25 April 2013). "Japanese Invasion Fleet Heads For California — Then Where?". Battlefield. Time. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Special SDF isle assault unit in works". The Japan Times. 2013-06-13. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  10. ^ Zachary Keck (2013-06-15). "Japan Might Create Island Assault Unit". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  11. ^ Ayako Mie & Mizuho Aoki. "Nation’s troops long way from hitting the beaches: experts". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  12. ^ Kyle Mizokami (2013-10-19). "Japan's Amphibious Buildup". USNI News. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-02-08.