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Aegis Ashore BMD

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on 16 June 2020 that Japan cant move ahead with a costly US missile defense system, throwing his support behind a decision to suspend deployment of the controversial program. A day earlier, Defense Minister Taro Kono said the deployment of the Aegis Ashore radar system would be suspended, citing cost and time constraints. Abes comments appeared to suggest the system, which was originally estimated to cost Japan $4.2 billion over three decades, may be scrapped altogether.

Defense Minister Taro Kono said the way the system was currently designed, they could not guarantee that the rocket booster from the missile system would not fall outside the Ground Self-Defense Force's Mutsumi base in Yamaguchi, southwestern Japan. This promises to be an issue for all SM-3 variants, including the still-in-development Block IIA version, which the Japanese government has been working on together with the United States.

The government had originally guaranteed that interceptor missile gear would not land in residential areas near where the system was based. Kono said his ministry concluded that maintaining that promise would require a costly and time-consuming hardware upgrade. The Aegis Ashore purchase, approved in 2017, was seen both as part of attempts by Tokyo to bolster its defensive capabilities after North Korean missile launches, and as a way to foster closer ties with the US.

On 18 December 2017 Tokyo approved plans to buy US-made missile defense systems, citing North Korea's military technology. It was expected to take around 5 years for the government to put the new systems into operation. Japanese citizens have expressed concerns that changes to its pacifist policy could drag it into other conflicts.

The Japanese government approved plans to expand its ballistic missile defense system with a ground-based Aegis Ashore system made by the US in a bid to curb the threat posed by North Korea's latest developments in military technology. "North Korea's nuclear and missile development has become a greater and more imminent threat for Japan's national security," said a government statement. "We need to drastically improve our ballistic missile defense capability to protect Japan continuously and sustainably."

After the Cabinet meeting, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera sought to alleviate such concerns, saying the sole purpose of the missile defense system is to bolster the country's defenses against an attack from Pyongyang. "North Korea's nuclear missile development poses a new level of threat to Japan and, as we have done in the past, we will ensure that we are able to defend ourselves with a drastic improvement in ballistic missile defense," Onodera.

Japan's Aegis Ashore system will use a new type of missile interceptor jointly developed with the United States. Officials say that the 2 systems will place the entire Japanese nation under their coverage. Two Ground Self-Defense Force's training areas -- one in Akita City in northern Japan and the other in Hagi City in western Japan -- are among sites being considered for deployment. Government officials plan to survey these areas before making a final decision.

A single system is estimated to cost 888 million dollars. The government plans to include about 25 million dollars in this fiscal year's supplementary budget to cover the cost of technical assistance from the US. It will also request more than 6 million dollars to pay for the system's basic design in the next fiscal year's budget.

The National Research Council Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives (2012) noted that "... The Aegis BMD provides a proven capability for midcourse defense against certain classes of SRBMs and MRBMs. ... only one site (located near the center of the Sea of Japan) to provide single-shot EOR coverage for all of Japan regardless of the trajectory on which a notional 1,300 km-range liquid-propellant MRBM flies, and two sites (i.e., ships on station in two areas in the Sea of Japan) if single-shot LOR firing doctrines obtain. If one considers a more widely dispersed set of potential launch locations in North Korea, two sites will be required for complete EOR coverage of Japan... This should provide an effective defense of Japan against North Korean MRBMs for the foreseeable future."

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Page last modified: 06-07-2021 16:52:16 ZULU