By Kenta Kamimura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKAUAI ISLAND, Hawaii — The land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system Japan plans to introduce should be capable of shooting down cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in Hawaii on Wednesday.
This is the first time a Japanese defense minister has explicitly stated the Aegis Ashore system should be able to intercept cruise missiles.
“I want to develop fundamental infrastructure that will be comprehensively useful for the nation’s missile defense, including against cruise missiles,” Onodera said to reporters after he visited the U.S. military’s Aegis Ashore test site on Kauai Island.
Onodera has decided the Aegis Ashore system needs to be prepared to deal with North Korea’s ballistic missiles and also long-range cruise missiles that China is developing.
The U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore system has the same capabilities as Aegis-equipped destroyers. The Japanese government aims to have an operational land-based system in place by about fiscal 2023.
The government plans to equip these units with cutting-edge Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptors and also Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) multipurpose surface-to-air missiles capable of intercepting Chinese cruise missiles.
The SPY-1 radars installed on the Aegis destroyers have limitations when it comes to maximizing the capabilities of SM-3 Block IIA missiles. The government plans to push ahead with selecting a sophisticated radar system for the Aegis Ashore units.
One candidate is the state-of-the-art SPY-6 radar developed by U.S. company Raytheon Co. After visiting the Aegis Ashore test site in Hawaii, Onodera inspected the SPY-6 test site.
The SPY-6’s detection performance is significantly greater than that of the SPY-1, and there are high expectations within the Self-Defense Forces that this system will get the nod. However, introducing the SPY-6 is expected to happen in the latter half of the 2020s at the earliest, which has raised concerns this radar might not be installed in time to deal with North Korea’s missiles.
Consequently, some Defense Ministry officials have floated a proposal to introduce the Lockheed Martin Solid State Radar (LMSSR) — a cutting-edge system developed by U.S. company Lockheed Martin Corp. The LMSSR has a detection performance on par with the SPY-6 and could reportedly be operational by fiscal 2023.