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Japan PAC-3 Missile

While various efforts have been made by the international community in recent years for the nonproliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, such threats continue to exist. Against this background, Japan has been making efforts for the early deployment of a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system that is most suitable for Japan's exclusively defense-oriented policy. Japan's BMD system is a multi-tier defense system comprising upper-tier interception by the Aegis BMD System and lower-tier interception by the Patriot PAC-3 System. The capabilities of the Aegis destroyers and Patriot systems currently maintained by the SDF have been and will be improved. The entire system consists of these weapons, high performance sensors, and command, control, battle management, and communications systems, which effectively coordinate the weapons and sensors.

Japan initially showed interest in the Theater (currently called Terminal) High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, but later inclined toward the Navy Theater Wide Defense (NTWD) program, reflecting: Japan’s island geography; possession of Aegis ships that could be used as NTWD platforms; and the fact that NTWD was at an initial stage of development unlike other programs, so there was sufficient room for Japanese companies to participate.

The Patriot system is a surface-to-air missile system that intercepts incoming ballistic missiles at the terminal phase (between reentry into the atmosphere and impact). It was introduced in Japan in 1993. The Patriot PAC-3 system is an upgraded version with capabilities of firing PAC-3 missiles, which can intercept ballistic missiles.

In response to the North Korean missile launches in 2006, the JDA Director-General Fukushiro Nukaga announced changes in Japan’s BMD development plan. PAC-3, scheduled to start operation from 2007, will be deployed to Iruma Base (Saitama Prefecture) as soon as possible in FY 2006. PAC-3 deployments to Kasumigaura (Ibaraki Prefecture), Narashino (Chiba Prefecture) and Takeyama (Kanagawa Prefecture), originally scheduled by the end of FY 2007 were moved up several months. In addition, the Japanese Government considered an acceleration of PAC-3 deployments to Hamamatsu (FY 2008), Chubu-Kinki (FY 2009) and Kyushu (FY 2010) Region.

The Patriot PAC-3 system consists of a radar set, interceptor Missile Launchers, fire control system, and a communications system. It is a mobile system that can be deployed to appropriate locations in response to various situations. It was deployed in March 2007 at the Iruma Air Base for the first time, and it is now deployed at five bases. Japanese SAM systems are subordinate to both the JGSDF and the JASDF. The JGSDF operates the HAWK and Chu-SAM systems, and Japanese Patriot batteries are operated by the JASDF. However, JASDF control networks provide targeting and EW support for all SAM systems in Japan, as the JASDF operates the Aircraft Control and Warning Wings manning Japan's EW sites. Five JGSDF units and six JASDF units are equipped with HAWK or Patriot SAMs.

Japan utilized the Patriot system and is a customer for the PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) upgrade in meeting its important air and missile defense priorities. The PAC-3 Missile will greatly increase the effectiveness of the Patriot system in intercepting tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and other air breathing threats. PAC-3 missiles would be locally produced in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. JDA planned to add PAC-3 capabilities to 18 Patriot Fire Units (16 for actual deployment and two for education and training).

he Air Self-Defense Force conducted a flight test of the Patriot system (PAC-3)—a system upgraded with ballistic missile defense capabilities—at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, United States, at 7:55 a.m. local time on September 17, 2008 (10:55 p.m. Japan time). Two PAC-3 missiles were launched and successfully intercepted a simulated ballistic missile target. It was the first PAC-3 flight test conducted by a country other than the United States. A unit of approximately 80 personnel conducted the test to confirm the comprehensive functions of the Patriot PAC-3 system from detection and tracking to interception.

The Japanese Defense Ministry planned to deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles in central Tokyo to shield the capital from potential attacks. The May 2014 plan was designed to beef up the capital's defenses against a possible ballistic missile attack from North Korea. The PAC-3 system would be deployed in the Ichigaya district in the Shinjuku ward as early as 2017. If Japan believed it is under attack from ballistic missiles, the self Defense Forces (SDF) would first of all order Aegis equipped destroyers to shoot them down from space using Standard Missile-3 interceptors. If they fail then the PAC-3, which only has a range of about 20 km, would form the second line of defense.

Japan's Defense Ministry said 15 June 2016 it would start upgrading its ground-based PAC3 interceptor missile system amid North Korea's launches of ballistic missiles. Japan had deployed the surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC3 system, along with SM3 interceptor missiles on Aegis destroyers, when North Korea had shown signs of launching a ballistic missile. The Defense Ministry says it would start upgrading the PAC3's radar and launcher from fiscal 2017. The move comes in response to North Korea's repeated launches of ballistic missiles since earlier this year. The enhancement will increase the range of the interceptors, which are currently said to be in the dozens of kilometers and improve their ability to simultaneously intercept multiple incoming missiles. It will also improve the PAC3's tracking capability and enable a quicker response against cruise missiles. The Defense Ministry says it will seek a budget for the enhancements in the fiscal year starting next April and aims to complete the upgrade in about 5 years.

On 03 February 2016 Japan condemned Pyongyang’s plan to launch a space rocket, calling it a thinly disguised test of a long-distance ballistic missile. The government ordered Aegis ballistic missile defense warships of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and land-based Patriot PAC-3 rocket units to respond should projections show components falling in Japanese territory. Aegis destroyers equipped with the SM-3 missile system at sea and Patriot PAC-3 air-defense units of the Ground Self-Defense Forces on land are both designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

The deployment of the PAC-3 Patriot missile system to intercept the North Korean missile on Miyako Island wasn't completed until 6:40 am on 07 Febbruary 2016, 50 minutes before the time window in which North Korea had announced it would launch the missile. This occurred because on 06 February 2016, North Korea moved forward the beginning of the time of the launch from 08 February to 07 February. The PAC-3 system for Miyako Island departed Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, on a Maritime Self-Defense Force transport ship, originally aiming to arrive at the southern island at between 9 and 10 am on 07 February. This was pushed forward to 3:30 am after North Korea's schedule change, and the deployment was hurriedly finished about three hours after arrival.

The Ministry of Defense learned of the 07 February 2016 missile launch, which occurred at 9:31 am, from the Shared Early Warning system that is run with the United States military after a U.S. military satellite picked up the launch. The Self-Defense Forces' Aegis ships and ground-based radar also detected the launch. Almost immediately, the prime minister's office's crisis management center was notified. In April 2009 the Japanese government issued a mistaken announcement of a North Korean missile launch, and in April 2012 its confirmation of a launch was much later than those of the United States and South Korea. This time there were no major mistakes, and the time between the launch and the government's dissemination of information though the Em-Net and J-Alert emergency warning systems was faster than the last time, in December 2012.

The Patriot system has a range of 20 km. The PAC-3 system alone is insufficient to shoot down medium-range ballistic missiles such as North Korea’s Nodong at low altitudes, because at speeds of 3 to 7 km per second upon atmospheric re-entry such rockets are traveling too fast, the sources said. Nodong missiles have a range of about 1,300 km and can therefore strike Japan.

The Defense Ministry is studying introducing the THAAD system, which intercepts missiles when they re-enter the atmosphere. This would supplement the PAC-3 system and give the nation a three-tiered missile defense.

The Japanese government on 08 august 2016 ordered the Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any incoming missiles. The government will keep the order in place and renew it every 3 months for the time being. Previously the government has issued such an order when there are indications that North Korea is preparing to launch a ballistic missile. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect when a missile launch is about to take place. North Korea fired 2 medium-range ballistic missiles on 02 august 2016. One of them is believed to have landed about 250 kilometers off the Sea of Japan coast, in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone. The government says North Korea is believed to have used a mobile launcher, which makes it hard to monitor preparations, and therefore difficult to know when or where a launch will take place. With the new order, the Self-Defense Forces will be able to constantly deploy destroyers equipped with the advanced Aegis radar system and interceptor missiles, as well as PAC3 interceptor missile launchers.

Four PAC3 interceptor units were deployed in western Japan in August 2017. That came after North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles toward waters around the US Pacific territory of Guam. In September 2017 another unit was installed in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.

By 30 July 2018 Japan's Defense Ministry had finished withdrawing missile interceptor units deployed around the country. Defense officials said they believed North Korea was less likely to fire ballistic missiles after the summit between the North and the United States. The removal follows a similar decision in June 2018 when the ministry withdrew destroyers equipped with an advanced ballistic radar system from the Sea of Japan. However, an order to destroy any incoming missiles remained in place, meaning the ministry will be able to redeploy the interceptors at short notice.

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Page last modified: 04-08-2018 18:05:21 ZULU