Japan may build huge warships to counter the North Korean missile threat

  • This year, North Korea launched a record number of missiles.
  • Japan has now reviewed its missile defense system which relies on specially built warships.
  • Japan’s leaders are considering adding two ships to their ballistic missile defense fleet.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force will be in action on November 21. announcedIts two newest destroyers, JS Maya, and JS Haguro had successfully conducted antiballistic missiles testing off the coast of Hawaii.

This announcement signifies that Japan now has eight ballistic-missile defense destroyers capable of mission-capable missions. It comes amid a record-setting number of missile tests by North Korea. over 50 missilesLaunched in the past two-months and eight ICBMs since Jan.

At least one of these missiles was launched on October 3rd. flew directly over the Japanese mainland — the first to do so in five years.

Japan has had to examine its unique ballistic missile defense system. It relies heavily upon specially-equipped warships to intercept incoming rockets.

Ballistic-missile defense

Japan JS Haguro fires SM-3 missile

JS Haguro fires a SM-3 Block IB missile off the coast of Hawaii during a live fire exercise on November 18.

US Missile Defense Agency/Heather Cavaliere

Japan began developing its current BMD system2004. It has evolved to a multi-tier BMD network that includes all three branches of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense SystemThe mid-course stage of ballistic missiles is where they are still outside of the earth’s atmosphere, and a task for destroyers equipped with this capability is to intercept them.

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force commands Patriot-defense batteries Patriot Advanced Capability-3Missiles designed to intercept ballistic missiles at their terminal stage, after they reenter in the atmosphere.

Finally, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force commands Type 03Medium-range surface to air missile systems that intercept missiles within the medium range of airspace.

The interceptors can be linked to a large network of satellites radars ships and aircraft that monitors Japan for any incoming threats. The data they collect are uploaded to the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment. This is Japan’s warning system and control system.

JADGE determines the potential point of impact within minutes of a threat being identified and orders appropriate defense systems to prepare for intercept. JADGE also issues an evacuation orderIf you have any questions, please let us know.

BMD destroyers

Japan guided-missile destroyer Maya

In the Philippine Sea, May 2021, the Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Maya was sighted.

US Navy/MCS3 Quinton A. Lee

The most important component of Japan’s BMD system are the Aegis-equipped BMD vessels. There are eight in service: four Kongō-class destroyers (Kongō, Kirishima, Myōkō, and Chokai), two Atago-classTwo destroyers (Atago & Ashigara), Maya-classHaguro and Maya are the destroyers

The Maya-class vessels, which were commissioned in 2020-2021, are the newest. They are also the first BMD destroyers specifically designed for the BMD role. After entering service, the rest were retrofitted.

The Mayas have 96 vertical launch tubes that can fire a mixture of Type 07 anti-submarine rockets, Type 90Or Type 17Anti-ship missiles RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. The most important armament, though, is the interceptors — the SM-3 SM-6 missiles.

The recent testsHaguro and Maya in Hawaii were involved in the successful intercept of a ballistic missile. Haguro intercepted another missile outside of the atmosphere with an SM-3 Block IB missile.

Haguro intercepted a Maya-tracked missile in a third shoot-down. This provided integrated missile defense capabilities that the JSDF had long sought.

Japan guided-missile destroyer Kongō

Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Kongō in the Sea of Japan on April 12.

US Navy/MCS Seaman Aleksandr Freutel

Using maritime-based platforms for missile defence has its advantages. Their mobility allows them cover a wider area and be closer to enemy launch sites. It makes it difficult for enemies to target them and destroy them.

By launching from open ocean, BMD ships also ensure that no booster debris from SM-3 and SM-6 missiles land in populated areas — a major reason Japan canceledAcquisition of the Aegis Ashore2020 system

September saw the launch of Japan’s Ministry of Defense announcedJapan would build two more BMD destroyers.

The proposed ships would measure 690 ft in length, 130 ft wide, and weigh around 20,000 tons. They would be the largest Japanese ships since World War II. They would be larger and more powerful than the US’s Zumwalt-class destroyersAnd slightly smaller than Japan’s Izumo class carriers, which are being converted to operate F-35B jets.

The JMSDF would be able to send them on longer deployments and operate them in bad weather. It could also arm them with more missiles and equip them the massive SPY-7 radar.

The first ship will be commissioned in 2028, and the second in 2029.

An urgent need

North Korean Hwasong ICBM

A North Korean Hwasong ICBM, as seen in March.

API/Gamma Rapho via Getty Images

Relying solely on warships for missile defense has many disadvantages, most notably the cost. The ships must be mobile, large, well-equipped with software and have highly trained crews.

They wouldn’t venture far from their patrol areas in Japan, but they would need to spend a lot of time in ports for maintenance or crew training. Japan would need a large number of them to ensure that enough would be deployed at all times.

“The problem with sea-based missile defense systems is that if you’re building expensive ships that will stay in one place, then it might be a good idea to save money and build these big systems onshore,” Zack Cooper, a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, told Insider.

Japan soldiers Patriot missiles

In April 2012, soldiers with Patriot missiles were seen at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo.


Cooper said, “You might need six ships to keep two ships on site at once. Building six missile-defense vessels is probably not the best way of taking up valuable shipyard space.”

The proposed 20,000-ton BMD destructioners will cost $7.1 billion. This is a huge price considering recent events. economic woesThere are fears of a global recession.

This may explain why the Japanese government has reportedly scaled backThe size of the two new ships is similar to the Maya-class ships. Japan’s new National Defense Program Guidelines will likely make the decision about the ships. They are due to be released in December.

Japan’s need for missile defense is growing. North Korea has fired a record number ICBMs, SLBMs and IRBMs this year. This is a worrying development for Japan. hypersonic missiles.

Sea of Japan Tokyo North Korea missile launch

Tokyo residents walk past a screen that displays the North Korean missile launch in September 2021.

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Japan may continue to use sea-based missile defense if it acquires two more BMD destroyers of a completely new design or builds more Maya-class vessels to save time and money.

Tokyo could also reconsider its decision and adopt Aegis Ashore. The cost of maintenance and training for the land-based system will be lower and may even prove to be cheaper than Japan’s 2020 cancellation.

Cooper stated that in the North Korea context, when you know where the missiles are being fired from and to which direction they will be directed, it doesn’t make sense to build a bunch of missile defense destroyers to keep two missile-defense destroyers on the ground at once.

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