Friday, October 2, 2015

The Long War, Part III - Japan

Previous: The Long War, Part II - The Origins of X-Com

Establishing a Base of Operations

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was the first to volunteer his country as a possible base of operations for the new task force. Japan had a modern and well-equipped military and she was a long standing ally of the US. The US was reluctant to take on more global responsibility, given that her volunteer armies had been heavily committed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. She was also confident in going it alone when it came to dealing with the extra-terrestrial threat - she had world's most advanced military, and she was still the world's pre-eminent superpower despite the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia. Nonetheless she was not opposed to lending assistance to an international effort, and with Japan at the head of such an endeavour she could be sure that she would retain considerable influence over the course of affairs.

Japan in the early 21st century was a country stagnating under two decades of recession and afflicted with a low birth rate and an ageing population. She was also being threatened by the rise of China as an economic and military superpower - China had recently overtaken Japan as the world's second largest economy, and the two nations' continued dispute over the Senkaku Islands continued to dominate headlines on both sides. Both nations had a long and fractious history and the issue of Japanese war guilt in the Second World War was an ongoing impediment to better relations. Japan's tech and automobile companies, once at the forefront of innovation in the 80's and 90's, had been eclipsed by silicon valley giants like Apple, Google and Tesla. Prime Minister Abe had also inadvertently rekindled the pacifist movement in Japan after taking steps to circumvent Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The US written Japanese Constitution, created by General Douglas McArthur and his staff at the end of the Second World War, specifically prohibited the use of military force except in self-defence. In July 2014 the Abe cabinet passed a bill which allowed for a looser definition of the article, giving Japanese forces permission to participate in military actions in order to defend their allies abroad. This was met with tremendous opposition from both in and out of Japan - overseas the move was met with harsh criticism, particularly from China and North Korea. Domestically there were massive demonstrations the likes not seen in Japan for some time, and opposition members and academics geared up to challenge the legality of Abe's bill in the Supreme Court of Japan.

US, Australian and Japanese forces conduct joint exercises in Kyushu, Japan.

Abe saw the X-Com Initiative as a chance to illustrate the wisdom of a more flexible interpretation of Article 9, and to re-assert Japan's position as a major player on the world stage. Japan was the second largest funder of the UN, and over the years had lobbied intensely for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Despite her pacifist constitution the Japanese Self Defence Force (JSDF) was a well-equipped and capable military force, with long standing ties with the US and Australia. Japan had also contributed logistical support to the UN on numerous occasions, and was no stranger to multi-lateral operations. There were numerous US bases in Japan, particularly in the Ryukyu island chain in the south-west of Japan, which allowed for immediate commencement of operations between Japanese, American and Australian forces. More importantly however, she also had state of the art research and satellite launch facilities at Tanegashima off the coast of Kyushu, Japan. The first priority of the fledgling program was the re-establishment of satellite coverage of the skies, and great efforts were being made to create passive stealth satellites which had minimal radar profiles. The proposed plan was to launch satellites from two locations. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) would handle launches from Tanegashima, while Elon Musk's privately owned SpaceX would be contracted to handle launches from Vanderberg Air Force Base in the US. The term X-Com would become a blanket term to encompass the satellite program, the air interception program headed by the US and Japan, the research and development program which would be run by JAXA in Tanegashima, and the military force which were originally tasked to provide security for the forensic and recovery teams.

Mustering the Troops

Japan received the go-ahead to commence X-Com operations at the end of January 2016 despite vocal and strident opposition from China. Being a resolution created by the General Assembly rather than by the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was free to ignore China's objections, and soon personnel and equipment were being transported to Ryukyu Islands from various nations across the globe. Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) General Kiyofumi Iwata was appointed as force commander. Force commanders were customarily high ranking officers picked from the nation that would bear the heaviest burden of the mission, and given that Japan would be providing the bases and the majority of the supporting infrastructure it was only logical that a Japanese officer be given overall command. The bulk of the research team would come from Germany, who after Japan, was the third biggest funder of the UN. The team would be headed jointly by German astrobiologist Moira Vahlen and American engineer Raymond Shen, while the actual ground missions would be directed from command (later to be known as Central by X-Com operators) by Colonel John Bradford of the US Army.

JGSDF General Kiyofumi Iwata, appointed as force commander of the X-Com task force, here pictured with Australian Army Chief Lieutenant General Angus Campbell.

There were, however, serious delays in the build up of manpower and material. The UN did not have a standing reserve - instead, international coalitions were assembled on a per resolution basis. This meant that every multi-national task force had to be assembled from scratch, an incredibly inefficient and time-wasting exercise which had to be repeated every time the UN made a resolution. Fortunately for the X-Com project US, Japanese and Australian forces were already cooperating in Japan and could begin work immediately while the remainder of the international coalition arrived in dribs and drabs. The Russian contingent was the first to arrive on the scene, and wasted no time poking around the US facilities on Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, which was the site of X-Com's first military deployment. They soon found their movements heavily curtailed by grim-faced Marines, and the decision was made to relocate the X-Com task force to their own facilities on Tanegashima as soon as possible.

Dr. Moira Vahlen and Chief Engineer Raymond Shen confer on the layout of the new X-Com base in Tanegashima.

The base at Tanegashima thus became the central hub for X-Com activities for both R&D and military purposes. Facilities were extremely roughshod at the outset, and often improvised. Troop quality was also uneven - special forces commandoes rubbed shoulders with regular infantry and support personnel who did not have specific combat training. All operators purportedly had to be able to speak English, and air assault experience was specified as mandatory. Despite this pre-requisite Bradford found soldiers arriving at the base who had never been in a helicopter, much less be able to fast-rope down one. As a UN force it also incorporated women in combat roles, something which some of the soldiers from more conservative regimes were not accustomed to. There was also friction between members of the coalition - the Ukrainian civil war had flared into life once more, and the Russians soon found themselves at odds with the Ukrainians and Belarusians serving on the task force. The Pakistani and Indian contingents treated each other cordially albeit coolly, and organized impromptu cricket matches which were fiercely contested much to the bemusement of the locals, whose local sport was baseball and soccer. In the meantime the Chinese were treated with total suspicion by the Japanese, and the disdain was mutual.

Determined to make the best of the circumstances, however, Bradford immediately implemented a strict training regimen and instituted a new hierarchy within X-Com which disregarded ranks held by the soldiers in their respective countries. From now on rank in the new unit would be earned by their performance within the unit. Bradford also conducted selections to determine his squad compositions and to see which of his soldiers could be trusted to conduct operations in a cooperative and efficient manner. The primary goal of the new X-Com project was simple - barring any communications from the visitors, X-Com was to shoot down an enemy craft, and recover the remains for analysis. Bradford was determined that his dysfunctional team of international soldiers would be ready for that eventuality.

Next: The Long War, Part IV - First Contact

5 comments:

  1. One senses quite some carnage through dysfunction in the coming days ahead!

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  2. This part was awesome, my only compliant (and this was written before his name was even revealed, i think) is Bradford's first name is John.

    Other than that, freaking awesome story.

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  3. "Vahlen", not "Vahlan". Otherwise this (and a few other minor typos) is a really good write-up. Good job, Commander.

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  4. Cheers, guys. Fixed Bradford's name and the Vahlen typo.

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