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.
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.