The Japanese government will deploy upgraded surface-to-air missiles to the Ryuku Islands to boost Japanese air defense capabilities near disputed islands in the East China Sea, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Japan’s new missiles will be enhanced, vehicle-mounted versions of the current Type-03 medium-range, surface-to-air missiles. These missiles can simultaneously intercept multiple enemy fighters, as well as effectively knock out incoming high-speed cruise missiles.
High-speed cruise missiles are difficult to detect and defend against. The new missiles were recently tested in the US, and they were able to successfully eliminate all missile threats, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The Yomiuri Shimbun explained that the Japanese government hopes to improve deterrence near the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, territories claimed by China but administered by Japan. China has been regularly sending military aircraft into the area over the past few months to challenge Japan’s claims of indisputable sovereignty over the islands.
“As the cruising range of Chinese military aircraft has gotten longer, they are coming ever closer to our territories,” a Japanese Ministry of Defense official told the Nikkei Asian Review.
Between April and June, Japan scrambled fighters and alerted its missile defense teams in response to Chinese provocations 199 times.
Japan will spend around $170 million of its desired $52 billion fiscal year 2017 national defense budget on the upgraded Type-03 missiles. The missiles, including their launchers, radar systems, and other relevant equipment, will be purchased and deployed over a period of several years.
These weapons will be deployed to Miyako Island in Okinawa and Amami Oshima in Kagoshima, the same locations Japan intends to place upgraded surface-to-ship missiles to prevent China from entering Japanese waters by sea.
The Nikkei Asian Review reports that Japan is also considering upgrading the Air Self Defense Force’s (ASDF) 200 F-15s by outfitting them with more missiles. Japan’s F-15 fighters can carry up to 8 missiles, but that number will be raised to 16. In January, Japan moved a large squadron of F-15s to a base in Naha, Okinawa. 40 fighters are on standby at this location to counter any potential Chinese military assault on Japanese territorial holdings.
Japan’s surface-to-air and surface-to-ship missile deployments should be complete by 2021. While the missile shield will not prevent normal regional operations, it will prevent China from seizing control of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands militarily.
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