In its first foreign military sale (FMS) announcement since the federal government shutdown went into effect on December 22, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on January 29 that Japan has been cleared for a potential $2.15 billion purchase of two Aegis Weapon Systems, two Multi-Mission Signal Processors and two Command and Control Processor Refreshes, plus additional equipment and services.
Under its FY18 budget, the Ministry of Defense requested JPY730 million ($6.7 million) in infrastructure and preparatory funding for bringing two Lockheed Martin Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems into service. The Aegis Ashore sites will be situated on the southwestern and northern ends of Honshu, the largest and most populous island of Japan proper.
The 2018 allocation represented part of a larger JPY136.5 billion ($1.25 billion) earmark related to protection and response to potential ballistic missile attacks on Japan.
For FY19, the total ballistic missile defense-related request has grown to JPY424 billion ($3.88 billion).
For its long-range strategic surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, Japan turns to U.S.-sourced platforms, which currently form Japan’s two-layer ballistic missile defense (BMD) system.
North Korean saber rattling prompted Japan to seek the Patriot system to protect strategic infrastructure and population centers. The Japanese military deployed its first PAC 3 missile interceptors back in 2007.
In addition, Japan is also helping to develop an improved variant of the third-generation Raytheon Standard Missile (SM-3), the Block IIA, that will eventually form part of its missile defense capability. Japan currently operates its SM-3 Block I on its Aegis-equipped Atago class and Kongo class destroyers.
Once in military service – targeted for between 2022 and 2023 – the new Aegis Ashore systems will provide additional national coverage against North Korean ballistic missiles, thus adding another defense layer to Japan’s current two-layer ballistic missile defense system.