Defense Minister: Japan Considering Purchasing Aegis Ashore Following North Korean ICBM Test

May 16, 2017 5:21 PM
Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Complex in Devesulu, Romania. MDA Photo

THE PENTAGON — Japan is giving further consideration to acquiring the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system following the Sunday test of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, Japan’s defense minister told a Diet committee this week.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told the committee Japan was exploring acquiring the land-based Aegis Ashore system and could make a decision on purchasing the capability as early this summer, according to local press reports.

Of particular concern was the recent test of the North Korean Hwasong 12 two-stage ICBM that traveled along a trajectory that launched the missile 1,300 miles into the air.

The missile, “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” wrote John Schilling for the blog 38 North this week.

Inada told the panel the introduction of the new SM-3 Block IIA BMD – jointly developed by Japan and the U.S. – will help against threats like the Hwasong 12.

“Introducing new interceptor missiles and other equipment will further improve our capability to intercept ballistic missiles, including attacks on a lofted trajectory,” Inada said on Monday according to The Japan Times.

U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD), and U.S. Navy Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully conducted a flight test Feb. 3 (Hawaii Standard Time), resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA off the west coast of Hawaii. US Navy Photo

In the same meeting, Inada said Japan was also close to a decision to pursue Aegis Ashore as a BMD capability.

“In order to bolster capabilities to defend our whole nation all the time, [we] will promote consideration of introducing ballistic missile defense systems such as Aegis Ashore without any loose ends,” she said according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Currently, Japan’s BMD capability is based around its four Aegis-equipped Kongo-class destroyers armed with older SM-3 for long-range interception of ballistic missiles and mobile Lockheed Martin Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors for intercepting targets at shorter ranges.

The addition of Aegis Ashore to Japan’s BMD network would not only expand the number of weapons Japan could field against BMD threats but also expand its air defense sensor network with the inclusion of additional AN/SPY-1D radars as part of the installation.

Japan is also planning to include a BMD capability in its new destroyer-class and upgrade its two Atago-class destroyers to include a BMD capability.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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