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US, Japanese Defense Firms Reportedly Building Enhanced Shield Against North Korea’s Missiles

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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U.S. and Japanese defense companies are reportedly developing an enhanced missile defense radar system to better protect Japan from the threat of North Korean missiles.

Raytheon is working with Mitsubishi Electric, and Lockheed Martin is collaborating with Fujitsu, government and defense sources revealed to Reuters. Five anonymous sources introduced that Japan intends to extend its ability to detect and target enemy missiles that could potentially pose a threat to Japan.

The U.S. and Japanese firms involved in the project have yet to confirm their involvement, but such developments would be consistent with Japan’s defense development trajectory. The new radars would be variants of Aegis Ashore models already produced by Lockheed and Raytheon. The proposed radars would use gallium nitride developed by Mitsubishi Electric and Fujitsu that can amplify radar power more effectively than traditional silicon-based semiconductors.

North Korea has been rapidly developing the tools to hold Northeast Asia hostage. The North has launched eleven ballistic missiles this year.

North Korea successfully launched the new Hwasong-12 medium long-range surface-to-surface missile on May 14 and the new Pukguksong-2 medium-range surface-to-surface missile on May 21. The former has the potential to strike targets in Guam, while the latter is better suited for strikes on targets in South Korea and Japan. The North launched a salvo of four extended-range Scud missiles towards Japan in early March, claiming to be rehearsing for strikes on U.S. bases in Japan. These developments have encouraged Japan to advance its capabilities to better protect the island nation.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada recently told a government committee Japan is exploring acquiring the land-based Aegis Ashore system, according to USNI News. At least three Aegis Ashore batteries would be necessary to protect the country.

“Japan can’t just wait until it’s destroyed,” Hiroshi Imazu, the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s security committee and one of the first Japanese lawmakers to call for the development of strike capabilities, told The Washington Post in March.

“I believe that we should consider having the capacity to strike,” Gen Nakatani, a former defense chief, told reporters, referring to the ability to return fire were North Korea to attack Japan.

Japanese officials are particularly concerned that their defenses could be overwhelmed by swarm attacks and warheads launched on lofted trajectories.

Japan is also reportedly considering installing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield like the one deployed to South Korea to bolster the country’s defenses. THAAD would offer a third layer of defense between the sea-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system and the PAC-3 Patriot defense system, the last line of defense.

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