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Japan accelerates stand-off missile programmes amid tense security environment

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry is seen here launching a Tomahawk cruise missile. Japan is seeking to accelerate its acquisition of this capability. (US Navy)

Japan is accelerating efforts to procure selected stand-off weapons, including the US-supplied Tomahawk cruise missile, amid deteriorating security conditions in the region.

The matter was announced by the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) on 5 October.

β€œThe Ministry of Defense and the [Japan] Self-Defense Forces will strengthen their stand-off defence capabilities in order to deter and eliminate the invasion force into Japan at an early and distant stage,” reads the announcement.

β€œIn light of the more severe security environment, Minister of Defense Kihara instructed us to further accelerate the construction of stand-off defence capabilities,” it added, in reference to Minoru Kihara, who assumed the post on 13 September amid a cabinet reshuffle.

As part of the effort, the Japanese MoD is now considering to acquire domestically produced stand-off missiles at an earlier date, the ministry said.

No details on these were provided in the announcement but a homegrown weapon that Japan has been working on is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI)-developed upgraded Type 12 surface-to-surface missile (SSM).

In March 2023 Japan's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) told Janes that the ship-launched variant of the upgraded Type 12 missile would be inducted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) by 2026.

The upgraded Type 12 SSM will feature a significantly enhanced maximum striking range of 1,000 km, up from 200 km previously. The weapon will also be equipped with an up-to-date command (UTDC) link that allows the missile to receive in-flight updates on the target.

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