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Bringing together partners: Defence technology and innovation cooperation between Australia–Japan–US

Opinion: Bringing together “like-minded” nations across the Indo-Pacific is essential security across the region. Nowhere is this clearer than in the relationship between the United States, Japan, and Australia, but more needs to be done to drive innovation and R&D outcomes, explains Australian director for Armatus, Guy Boekenstein.

Opinion: Bringing together “like-minded” nations across the Indo-Pacific is essential security across the region. Nowhere is this clearer than in the relationship between the United States, Japan, and Australia, but more needs to be done to drive innovation and R&D outcomes, explains Australian director for Armatus, Guy Boekenstein.

The 2021 Defence of Japan white paper revealed a substantial shift in Japan’s defence posture. The white paper noted that “security challenges and destabilising factors became more tangible and acute” and, for the first time, specifically refers to the importance of “stabilising the situation surrounding Taiwan” as being of vital importance to “Japan’s security and the stability of the international community”.

This view is echoed by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which notes in its Diplomatic Bluebook “a broadening and diversifying array of security challenges” and warns “today, no single country can protect its peace and security on its own”.


Fast forward to three years and we are in the age of AUKUS, an increasingly contested Indo-Pacific, Japan, and the US significantly bolstering the bilateral alliance and talk of Japan being invited to cooperation in some of the technology aspects of AUKUS under Pillar II.

In addition to traditional security threats, Japan (like Australia) is facing new challenges such as cyber attacks, including ransomware and hacks of critical infrastructure, threats to economic security stemming from coercion, vulnerable supply chains or the theft of technology, and disinformation campaigns.

Japan (unlike Australia for now) also faces almost daily air and maritime incursions from China and Russia, as well as the occasional ballistic missile launch from North Korea – the threats Japan faces are very real.

Defence and dual-use technology cooperation

The development of the Australia–Japan defence and security relationship has been an incremental one compared with the economic and trade relationship. This is understandable for numerous reasons on both sides and is often the nature of defence international engagement.

There is a lot Japan can offer Australia (and AUKUS partners) across a range of sectors in advanced defence technologies and capabilities. The Japanese technology innovation sector, advanced manufacturing capabilities, and space program are just some examples where Australia (and the UK and the US) could leverage Japanese capacity to accelerate many of the Pillar II priorities.

This cooperation would provide a largely unexplored market for Australian providers, as well as accelerate Japan’s defence modernisation efforts and strengthen its technological edge. It would also help to build common systems and platforms between allies.

While there are benefits of Japan deepening cooperation with AUKUS members, there are also challenges and considerations to be addressed. These include the need to navigate domestic political sensitivities, manage expectations among alliance members, and ensure alignment with existing security commitments and partnerships. There also remain issues to work through around information sharing and security.

Nevertheless, these challenges are not insurmountable. As Dr Taniguchi Tomohiko, a former special adviser to Prime Minister Abe and special adviser, Fujitsu Future Studies Centre, told me, “AUKUS should evolve into ‘JAUKUS’ by including Japan, a powerhouse of various critical technologies, which will further advance through economies of scale and scope. This is essential for the emerging league of maritime democracies to effectively check and balance against China”.

Practical first steps to deepening cooperation

There will be a range of issues for our respective governments to work through around policy, security, regulatory, export controls etc. However, we are starting to see some practical solutions already such as the combined research and development projects on UUVs, increased military training and exercising and so on.

Given that time is no longer a luxury, the private and non-profit sector can also support government and help identify solutions for the warfighter quickly through agile procurement methods and leveraging private capital investment.

Armatus is helping to lead the way in this space through partnerships with key government, industry, non-profit and capital partners across Japan, the US, and Australia. The Armatus mission is to build an innovation pipeline to meet critical capabilities gaps through the rapid acquisition of commercial dual use technologies.

Through its innovation centre, the Pacific Alliance for Collaboration and Technology Center (PACT), Armatus partners with government, industry, and the military to help accelerate the identification, deployment, and scale of commercial dual-use technologies that meet mission requirements.

The next PACT event will be held in Tokyo from 3–4 June with a theme of “Maritime Security, Supply Chain Resilience, Secure Communications, and Innovating at Speed and Scale”.

This will promote ongoing engagement between the dual-use innovation ecosystem, traditional defence companies, and government/military end-users to accelerate the development and scaling of new technologies for national security.

There will be information on contracting vehicles, private and public funding sources, as well as a range of US, Japanese, and Australian keynote speakers and panel sessions.

In the current geopolitical environment and with the growing support for deeper trilateral and multilateral engagement with Japan, Australian companies who are ready should explore these opportunities. For more information visit: https://www.armatus.ai/contact or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There will also be a PACT Australia event later this year – more to come.

Guy Boekenstein has spent two decades working on defence and national security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. He is a graduate of the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies and Australian Director for Armatus.

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