TOKYO: The Japanese government presented Thursday three options for the country’s new missile defense system, after it scrapped a plan in June to deploy Aegis Ashore land-based interceptors.
The three are: building a destroyer vessel armed with the entire interceptor system including radars, deploying the system at a large-scale offshore facility similar to an oil rig, and mounting the system on a private vessel such as a tanker.
The destroyer option does not exclude the construction of a conventional Aegis guided missile ship.
Chances also cannot be ruled out that the Ground Self-Defense Force will take charge of operating the offshore missile interception system instead of the Maritime SDF, which is facing a crew member shortage.
The alternative ideas were shown at relevant meetings held separately by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito.
The government is particularly interested in operating the Aegis Ashore system on a destroyer, coalition sources said.
“I hope to swiftly push forward concrete discussions with a view to deploying the system on a mobile offshore platform,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at the meetings.
However, all the options have yet to be fully technically validated. Furthermore, they have the problems of being vulnerable to attacks and costs being uncertain, people familiar with the matter said.
“We want to avoid being hasty. We will make considerations carefully,” a ministry official said at a Komeito meeting, reflecting on the failure to deploy the Aegis Ashore system due to a lack of preparation.
The government hopes to pick one out of the three options by the time when it compiles the fiscal 2021 budget late this year, after studying their technical aspects and calculating their costs with help of the private sector as well as the United States. Therefore, the Defense Ministry will not present a specific cost estimate in its budget request at the end of this month.
At the meetings, participating lawmakers largely favored the destroyer construction idea as “technically reliable” while dismissing the option to use a private-sector vessel as “irresponsible.” Some participants called for deploying the Aegis Ashore system in locations other than originally planned Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures.
Meanwhile, the government informed the parties of a decision to drop the option of installing the radar system on land and setting up missile launchers off shore, due to an expected communication delay.