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Japan steps up development of high-powered microwave weapons

Japan's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has allocated new funding for the development of high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons.

The MoD's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) has allocated JPY7.2 billion (USD63.2 million) for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which starts in April, to fund efforts to complete a prototype of an HPM radiation weapon system by FY 2026.

ATLA documents seen by Janes also show that the agency aims to develop four technologies by FY 2026 that will be used in the new HPM system.

These technologies comprise: a small- and high-powered module that uses an active phased-array antenna; heat systems that enable a ‘streamed' HPM beam to be directed at an aerial target with maximum continuous power; HPM fire-control technologies to track and beam HPM energy at targets; and technologies to deal with multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at once.

ATLA said the capability of existing air-defence systems is limited, given the increasingly wide range of threats. It added that an HPM weapon would meet future requirements for a persistent capability at a low cost.

A research and development (R&D) vision document published by ATLA in 2019 shows that it intends to acquire HPM missile-defence capability in the 2030s. It aims to develop HPM launcher capability and electromagnetic (EM) pulse munitions in the 2020s.

In 2019 ATLA requested from Japanese industry information about HPM launchers to be operated by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. In March 2021 it also requested information on HPM technologies using active phased-array antenna.

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