TOKYO: Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to acquire by March 2022 standoff missiles with a range of about 500 kilometers that can attack a target from outside the ranges of enemy missiles, including in the defense of remote islands, according to informed sources.
The acquisition is in line with the medium-term defense buildup program for fiscal 2019-2023.
The standoff missiles, expected to have the longest range among all forms of the current firepower of the Self-Defense Forces, will be mounted on F-35 cutting-edge stealth fighters, the sources said.
Since scrapping its plan to deploy Aegis Ashore land-based interceptor missile batteries earlier this year, the government has holding active discussions on deterrent force to block attacks with ballistic missiles, including the acquisition of capability to strike enemy bases.
If Japan decides to possess such capability, standoff missiles could be used to strike radar sites or other missile-related facilities of enemy states.
According to the ministry and other sources, Japan plans to acquire Norway’s JSM anti-surface and anti-ship missiles. Development has been completed, with delivery slated for mid-March 2022.
The JSM can be mounted inside the body of the F-35, enabling anti-surface and anti-ship attacks that make good use of the aircraft’s stealth feature.
The ministry is also considering installing U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp.’s LRASM or JASSM missiles, with a range of about 900 kilometers, on Air SDF F-15 fighter jets set to be modernized.
The U.S. military has test-fired JASSMs using a strategic bomber, while development of the LRASM for installation in Aegis vessels is underway.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to introduce standoff missiles without holding sufficient discussions about whether possessing them is consistent with Japan’s defense-only security policy under the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9.
If ASDF fighter jets depart from the Chitose, Misawa, Komatsu, Tsuiki or Naha base and fire standoff missiles from above the Sea of Japan or the East China Sea, the missiles can reach North Korea, China or coastal areas of Russia.
The next administration needs to give the public adequate explanations about whether longer-range missiles are within the scope of the minimum necessary capacity needed for self-defense in line with the Constitution, analysts said.