20.12.2017 Author: Valery Kulikov

Japan is Developing Cruise Missiles ‘to Protect Remote Islands’


Japan’s defense spending has been increasing since 2013, after the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, returned to power. Although in Japan the increase in military spending is primarily attributable to missile tests in the DPRK, their main reason is to protect the ‘remote islands’ and, in this context, to counterbalance China.

It is for these purposes that Tokyo has embarked on a program to re-equip the 28 Patriots missiles currently (PAC-3) in service, spending about 105 billion yen (1.05 billion USD) this year. In addition, the budget of the Ministry of Defense for 2017 included the cost of 94.6 billion yen (about 946 million USD) to buy six fifth generation F-35 fighters from the US and 39.3 billion yen (about 393 million USD) to buy four tiltrotor Osprey.

The sum of 74.6 billion yen (746 million USD) from the Ministry of Defense budget was foreseen this year to cover the costs of locating garrisons in remote islands – Miyako and Oshima in the Okinawa prefecture – near the disputed islands of Senkaku.

In addition, according to Japanese media reports, the country’s government began discussions for the first time in the country’s history on the development of cruise missiles capable of hitting ground targets. Tokyo hopes to solve in the near future the following main tasks with this type of weapon: The return of the ‘distant islands’ captured by a conditional adversary and attacks on its missile bases. If in the first case ‘adversary’ primarily means China, actively expanding its influence on the sea and leading the accelerated modernization of its armed forces, then the second case is the DPRK and a preventive attack on North Korean missile bases.

As the newspaper Yomiuri writes, the development of cruise missiles to protect the Japanese islands should begin in 2018. A new Japanese weapon may be created by 2022. The Japanese Ministry of Defense has already sent a budget request to the Government for the next year to begin the development of a guided cruise missile. The Defense Department for the “Land of the Rising Sun” has estimated that the projected work would cost approximately 68.4 million dollars.

The Japanese media notes that new weapons will largely be similar to the well-known American Tomahawks. Their range will be 300 km, and the launch of such cruise missiles can be both from ground installations and from warships, fighters and Kawasaki P-1 patrol planes. When adopted, these cruise missiles can be used in remote islands to strike at potential enemy ships, but in the event of placement on ships or aircraft, the missile can be applied to attack the enemy’s bases.

Previously, Japan had already developed missiles that could be classified as cruise. Here we are talking about types such as the ASM-2 aviation anti-ship missile, as well as SSM-1 and SSM-1b for coastal anti-ship complexes. The Japanese military-industrial field has never developed cruise missiles for ground targets before. The ability to attack ground targets is planned to be endowed with anti-ship missiles, whose design should begin next year.

The intensification of Japan’s development of a new type of armament in public rhetoric is explained by the ‘desire to ‘defend itself against the actions of the DPRK’. However, it is noteworthy that North Korea itself does not pose a danger to the Japanese; they understand that Pyongyang does not intend to attack them, and all DPRK’s actions are dictated by the concern for its own safety.

Although any weapons that Japan plans to develop and launch are being put forth today in public rhetoric precisely in the context of protection from the DPRK, in reality the Japanese are using the North Korean question to build up armaments for the purpose of further deterring China. This has resulted in a new strategy, according to which ‘Japan together with the US should play a leading role in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific’.

This was the purpose of Japan’s desire to create a supersonic anti-ship missile (ASM), which was successfully tested in this summer and became the first successful development in the field of supersonic means of destruction. The development of the anti-ship missile XSSM for many years was carried out in a regime of strict secrecy and, according to experts, the ‘marine’ version of the missile is a modification of the XASM-3 ground-based missile. The five-meter XASM-3, as reported by experts, has a mass of about 900 kilograms and can reach a speed of 3M. Such indicators are unique in terms of missile weapons: The anti-ship missiles of NATO countries have pre-sonic flight speeds.

At the same time, in 2018, Japan will start developing laser anti-missile systems based on an electrically pumped laser. It is expected that such systems can be used to intercept cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and even artillery shells, Aviation Week reports.

The aforementioned facts clearly demonstrate the obvious manifestation by Japan of comprehensive efforts to build up its military potential – along with the purchase of the newest F-35 aircraft and Aegis Ashore missile systems.

Although Tokyo does not conceal the fact that the aforementioned re-equipping of the national defense forces will be directed against the DPRK and China, nevertheless, according to formal logic, with the notion of ‘enemy-occupied islands’, Japan can also include the Southern Kuriles, to create corresponding additional obstacles to building its good-neighborly relations with Russia in the future.

Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’.

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