TOKYO (Tribune News Service) — The Japanese government intends to deploy an upgraded version of a surface-to-air missile with enhanced interception capabilities on the Nansei Islands to reinforce the air defense of remote islands, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The 17.7 billion yen (about $176,514,666) cost of introducing the missile will be included in the Defense Ministry's initial budget request for fiscal 2017. The government aims to deploy the missile around 2021.
Chinese military aircraft are increasing their activity around the Senkaku Islands. The government aims to enhance deterrence by deploying the upgraded version of the surface-to-air missile.
The missile to be introduced will be an improved version of a Type 03 medium-range surface-to-air missile, which will be mounted on a vehicle. It can intercept not only fighter aircraft but also high-speed cruise missiles. It has a longer range and a better ability to cope with multiple targets than the missiles currently deployed.
The government plans to make the purchase over multiple years. One missile system consisting of a launcher, radar and other equipment will be included in the initial budget request.
It is harder to detect high-speed cruise missiles than fighters. The period of time between a missile's launch and when it can be intercepted is short, so the key issue is improving the capability to cope with this.
In a launch test conducted in the United States, all the improved missiles hit their targets.
The missile is expected to be deployed to the Ground Self-Defense Force missile unit that is planned to be stationed on Miyakojima island and Ishigakijima island in Okinawa Prefecture and Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture.
In the East China Sea, the number of scrambles by Air Self-Defense Force aircraft against Chinese military aircraft is increasing. In June, Chinese military aircraft approached ASDF aircraft around the Senkaku Islands.
Initially, the Defense Ministry considered requesting two systems with the improved missile, but ultimately chose to request only one because it is continuing to introduce other expensive equipment.
The ministry plans to make the deployment sequentially to the units on Okinawa Island and Kyushu in the medium term. However, construction of a widespread air defense network may be delayed.