Sea Platforms

Japan’s Improved Atago-class to field SM-6 air-defence missiles

03 September 2018

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Tokyo has decided to equip the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) two Improved Atago-class destroyers with Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) air-defence missiles, an MoD spokesperson told Jane’s on 3 September.

The revelation comes just four days after the MoD asked for JPY11.1 billion (USD99.9 million) in its 2019 budget request to procure an undisclosed number of SM-6 interceptors, and JPY2.1 billion to acquire additional ones for testing.

Japan will equip 
        , the first of two Improved Atago-class destroyers on order for the JMSDF, with SM-6 air-defence missiles. (Kosuke Takahashi)Japan will equip <I>Maya</I> , the first of two Improved Atago-class destroyers on order for the JMSDF, with SM-6 air-defence missiles. (Kosuke Takahashi)

The decision follows the launch of Maya (with pennant number 179) on 30 July, the first of the two Improved Atago-class destroyers. The 170 m-long vessel entered the water at the Japan Marine United (JMU) Corporation’s facility in Yokohama and is expected to be commissioned in March 2020, while the second ship is expected to enter service in March 2021.

The vessels will be equipped with the US-developed Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system, which will enable the destroyers to act as part of a wider ‘grid’ of sensor and weapon platforms that allows other CEC-equipped ships to share surveillance and targeting information.

The ships, which are 5 m longer than the Atago-class destroyers, will also field SM-3 Block IIA missiles designed to intercept short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The MoD is advancing Japan's integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) capabilities through the combined use of Aegis-equipped vessels, early-warning aircraft, radars, and other equipment.

Maya is expected to use the Aegis Baseline J7 supported by the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D-series radar.

At the Yokosuka naval base in Kanagawa Prefecture the US Navy’s 7th Fleet has already deployed CEC-capable Aegis ships that can launch SM-6 interceptors.

The commissioning of Maya in 2020 is expected to facilitate data-sharing with US warships and enhance the interoperability between the Japan Self-Defense Force and the US military.

The latest revelation comes six days after Tokyo referred in its Defense of Japan 2018 White Paper to North Korea’s ballistic missile programme as an “unprecedentedly serious and imminent threat to Japan’s security”.

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