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Defense Ministry to request funds for 'Aegis Ashore' missile defense system

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis vessel Kongo, foreground, is seen alongside other ships at the force's base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in this file photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter on April 19, 2014. (Mainichi)

WASHINGTON -- The Japanese Ministry of Defense will include funding to equip the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) with the "Aegis Ashore" anti-missile system in its budget request for fiscal 2018.

Introducing Aegis Ashore, the ground-based version of the SM-3 anti-missile system on the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s Aegis vessels, is intended to strengthen Japan's defense capabilities against North Korean ballistic missiles.

The ministry will examine Aegis Ashore in conjunction with its review of the National Defense Program Guidelines, and aims to have funds for designing the system earmarked during the government's year-end budget compilation.

It is thought that two or three Aegis Ashore batteries would be required to cover all of Japan, at a cost of 70 to 80 billion yen per battery.

Japan currently has two layers of ballistic missile defense: Aegis vessel-based SM-3 batteries, with an altitude range of 500 kilometers; and land-based PAC-3 Patriot missiles, which can hit targets at an altitude of less than 20 kilometers. Aegis vessels must be rotated on and off station, and installing Aegis Ashore is intended to strengthen Japan's missile interception capabilities.

The MSDF currently operates four SM-3 missile-equipped Aegis ships, with a fifth set to enter service this year.

In related news, the Ministry of Defense is also set to request approximately 19.6 billion yen to produce a prototype "multiple input multiple output" MIMO radar system to boost detection of stealth aircraft, with a target introduction year of fiscal 2024. The ministry also plans to build a radar system to monitor space junk and other nations' space-based weapons. Next fiscal year, Japan will participate for the first time in space-related international war games backed by the U.S. military.

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