Japan’s Ground Self Defense Forces conduct live fire drills near Mt Fuji (pics)

Japan’s Ground Self Defense Forces on Thursday began four days of live-fire drills at training grounds in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The annual exercise, held since 1961, comes as the government moves to expand the role of the military and boost the defense budget.

Held against the backdrop of Mt Fuji, about 2,400 soldiers took part in the exercise with about 80 tanks and armoured vehicles as well as 60 field guns and 20 helicopters.

A wide array of aircraft, artillery, tanks and helicopters fired on targets. Ground personnel fired artillery, with helicopters flying overhead.

The exercises are the biggest event staged by the Self-Defense Forces each year. Members of the public, chosen by lottery, are invited to watch the drills.