The Japan Ministry of Defense is considering buying up to about 500 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles from the United States until around fiscal 2027, as Tokyo aims to obtain an enemy base strike capability. In light of factors such as North Korea’s rapid progress in missile launch technology, Japan estimates that it will need to possess up to 500 Tomahawk missiles. One concrete means of counterattack capability envisioned is the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, which needs to be upgraded to have a longer range. The improved missile is unlikely to be deployed until fiscal 2026 or later.
During the Japan-U.S. summit in Phnom Penh on November 13, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed the plan to advance purchase negotiations during a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. Kishida put the Tomahawk issue on the agenda, expressing to Biden his determination to drastically strengthen defense capabilities. Biden expressed his recognition that Japan is a high-priority purchaser of defense equipment, and underlined his intention to steadily move forward with procedures in the U.S. for the sale to proceed. Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed that Japan obtain the capability
The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior ruling coalition partner Komeito have basically agreed on possessing counterattack capabilities that could destroy enemy’s missile launch sites and other targets for self-defense purposes. But the idea remains controversial in Japan, where successive governments have maintained an exclusively defense-oriented policy under the country’s war-renouncing Constitution. The government is also likely to set forth in the revised security policy document plans to almost double the nation’s annual defense budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product, a level also called for among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The Tomahawk is a long-range subsonic cruise missile that is primarily used by the United States Navy and Royal Navy in ship and submarine-based land-attack operations and can strike targets precisely from 1,000 miles away, even in heavily defended airspace. At least six variants and multiple upgraded versions of the TLAM have been added since the original design was introduced, including air-, sub-, and ground-launched variants with conventional and nuclear armaments. The U.S. has strictly limited the sale of the Tomahawk missiles, which have proven their combat effectiveness in various battles since the U.S. military deployed them in the Gulf War in 1991.