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Japan set to create DARPA-style agency for military tech

Tokyo wants to tap civilian innovations to advance its R&D

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Japan’s wolfish new government may create a DARPA-style agency to research, develop and adapt cutting edge technologies for possible military use.

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was founded back in the ‘50s as a response to the Soviet Sputnik launch, with a mission to execute forward-looking R&D projects.

Its tag line today is “creating and preventing strategic surprise”, which might as well translate as “making sure our technology is more advanced than yours”.

Tokyo is currently finalising budget plans for the new agency, with the Cabinet Office hammering out the details with the Finance ministry, according to Reuters.

"We have DARPA of the United States in mind, but it does not mean we are creating another DARPA," science and technology minister Ichita Yamamoto said at a press conference attended by the newswire.

However, unlike its Pentagon-controlled counterpart in the US, the new “JARPA” project will apparently be overseen by the Cabinet Office with a focus not just on creating military technology.

Experts told Reuters that the new agency could also look to utilise technologies from the likes of Sharp, Kyocera and other civilian vendors which have hitherto shunned any involvement in military research.

Whatever the agency ends up looking like, it's unlikely to have the same size and scope as DARPA, which apparently has an annnual budget of $2.8 billion and is currently working on a new stealth fighter.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has alarmed China and other Asian nations with a more aggressive foreign policy since coming to power which includes possible plans to amend the country’s pacifist post-war constitution. ®

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