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The Ground Self-Defense Force

The largest of the three services, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), operates under the command of the chief of the ground staff, based in the city of Ichikawa, east of Tokyo. Although allotted 180,000 slots for uniformed personnel, in 1992 the force was maintained at about 86 percent of that level (with approximately 156,000 personnel) because of funding constraints. The GSDF consists of one armored division, twelve infantry divisions, one airborne brigade, two combined brigades, four training brigades, one artillery brigade with two groups, two air defense brigades with three groups, one helicopter brigade with twenty-four squadrons, and two antitank helicopter platoons (see table 39, Appendix).

The GSDF is divided into five regional armies, each containing two to four divisions, antiaircraft artillery units, and support units (see fig. 13). The largest, the Northern Army, is headquartered on Hokkaido, where population and geographic constraints are less limiting than elsewhere. It has four divisions and artillery, antiaircraft artillery, and engineering brigades. The Northeastern Army and the Eastern Army, headquartered in Sendai and Ichikawa, respectively, each has two divisions. The Central Army, headquartered in Itami, has three divisions in addition to a combined brigade located on Shikoku. The Western Army, with two divisions, is headquartered at Kengun and maintains a combined brigade on Okinawa.

Intended to deter attack, repulse a small invasion, or provide a holding action until reinforced by United States armed forces, the ground element is neither equipped nor staffed to offer more than a show of conventional defense by itself. Antitank artillery, ground-to-sea firepower, and mobility were improved and surface-to- ship missiles were acquired in the Mid-Term Defense Estimate completed in FY 1990 (see table 40, Appendix). The number of uniformed personnel is insufficient to enable an immediate shift onto emergency footing. Instead, the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel is high, requiring augmentation by reserves or volunteers in times of crisis. In 1992, however, GSDF reserve personnel, numbering 46,000, had received little professional training.

In 1989 basic training for lower-secondary and upper-secondary school graduates began in the training brigade and lasted approximately three months. Specialized enlisted and noncommissioned officer (NCO) candidate courses were available in branch schools, and qualified NCOs could enter an eight-to-twelve- week second lieutenant candidate program. Senior NCOs and graduates of an eighty-week NCO pilot course were eligible to enter officer candidate schools, as were graduates of the National Defense Academy at Yokosuka and graduates of four-year universities. Advanced technical, flight, medical, and command staff officer courses were also run by the GSDF. Like the maritime and air forces, the GSDF ran a youth cadet program offering technical training to lower-secondary school graduates below military age in return for a promise of enlistment.

Because of population density on the Japanese islands, only limited areas were available for large-scale training, and, even in these areas, noise restrictions were a problem (see Population , ch. 2). The GSDF tried to adapt to these conditions by conducting command post exercises and map maneuvers and by using simulators and other training devices. In live firing during training, propellants were reduced to shorten shell ranges. Such restrictions diminished the value of combat training and troop morale.

Data as of January 1994