The Ministry of Defense is poised to launch a committee to explore the introduction of a new ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, it has been learned.
The panel will compile suggestions sometime by next summer, aiming to introduce the new system for its Mid-Term Defense Program for the 2019-2023 fiscal years. The land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is seen as a likely contender.
The ministry has continued to mull the introduction of a future BMD system based on the current Mid-Term Defense Program running from fiscal 2014 to 2018. State Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya will head the new committee.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada will inspect a THAAD system in Guam in mid-December. Within the Defense Ministry it has also been suggested Japan could increase the number of Aegis-equipped vessels that can intercept ballistic missiles from the sea, and introduce a land-based component of the Aegis system called Aegis Ashore.
The cost of each option, including THAAD, is likely to be in the hundreds of billions of yen range. Since some time will be needed from budgeting to deployment, the ministry judged that it was necessary to reach a conclusion at an early stage.
Japan's current BMD system consists of Aegis destroyers designed to intercept missiles at an altitude of about 600 kilometers, and Patriot (PAC-3) surface-to-air missiles which do so at an altitude of about 15 kilometers. If Japan also introduced the THAAD system, whose anti-ballistic missiles can reach an altitude of about 150 kilometers, it would be able to fill the gap between the Aegis and Patriot systems, giving Japan three levels of preparedness.