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DSEI Japan 2023: Japan accelerates hypersonic missile programme

ATLA displayed a model of its scramjet-powered hypersonic anti-ship missile at the DSEI Japan 2023 show. The model shows elements of the missile, including its seeker, warhead, fuel tank, scramjet, and energy source. (Janes/Jon Grevatt)

Japan's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) is accelerating the development of its proposed scramjet-powered hypersonic anti-ship missile, an agency official told Janes at the DSEI Japan 2023 show in Chiba on 15 March.

The official, who did not want to be identified, said that systems-level research into the project will start earlier than planned in April 2023. The systems-level phase will aim to develop a missile prototype for testing within the next few years.

The ATLA official said this phase will run concurrently with the component-level research stage of the project. In this phase, ATLA is focused on the development on the missile's scramjet engine, its airframe, and cooling system.

The official also said that the project's name has also recently changed to the Scramjet-powered Hypersonic Weapon (SHW) programme. On its initiation in 2019, the project was named the Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) programme.

Although not confirmed by ATLA, the start of the second phase of the programme also indicates that the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) is moving closer to a decision on procuring the weapon. Earlier, the MoD told Janes that the project was aimed at proving scramjet and hypersonic technologies but that it had no plans to induct the missile into the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).

The SHW is expected to fly more than five times the speed of sound to evade radar networks. With its accelerated timeframe, the prototype could be expected to be trialled by the JSDF by the late 2020s.

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