Japan’s Defense Minister (Bōei Daijin) announced Monday the country will cancel plans to deploy a costly, land-based U.S. missile defense system designed to counter escalating threats from North Korea. Japan has decided to “stop the deployment process” of the Aegis Ashore missile system after discovering safety concerns regarding two communities near where the system would be based. 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 for years now. Japan has spent approximately $1.02 billion of its own money on that project. The Block IIA is designed to offer significantly expanded capabilities against larger missiles over earlier versions of the SM-3, all of which are intended to engage ballistic missile threats flying outside the Earth’s atmosphere during the midcourse portion of their flight. The Aegis Ashore sites also have the potential to be able to launch other missiles, such as the increasingly capable SM-6 missile series, in the future, as well.
Japan’s Defense Minister consulted with U.S. officials and realized it would take a hardware repair, as well as a software modification, to fix the problem, which he says would be too time-consuming and costly. The Japanese government had approved adding the $3.2 billion missile defense systems in 2017 to bolster the country’s current defenses — Aegis-equipped destroyers at sea and Patriot missiles on land. Defense officials said the two Aegis Ashore units could cover Japan entirely from one station at Yamaguchi in the south and another at Akita in the north. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will now have to reconsider Japan’s missile defense program.
Recognized as a key contributor to successful, interoperable and layered missile defense, Aegis BMD has been selected for the missile defense Phased Adaptive Approach, with deployments of both Aegis BMD capable ships and Aegis BMD capabilities in a ground-based Aegis Ashore configuration.
Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore is the same proven, low-risk weapon system as “Aegis Afloat,” with more than 40 years of experience transforming to meet evolving threats. Aegis Ashore provides a proven, affordable solution to expand the protection of the Aegis Combat System to inland areas. Existing capability with a proven track record coupled with established logistics infrastructure for rapid transition to land-based operations make Aegis Ashore an affordable, low-risk solution to missile defense.