skip to main content

Tokyo urged to increasingly focus on high-power microwave- and laser-based weapons

The Japan Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) has urged Tokyo to increasingly focus on the development of advanced military technologies such as high-power microwave- and laser-based weapon systems to help counter the growing missile threat posed by neighbouring countries.

Such technologies will most likely become a “game changer” in the field of missile defence, enabling Tokyo to shoot down multiple missiles simultaneously while drastically lowering the cost per intercept attempt compared with current technologies, said the NIDS think tank in its ‘East Asian Strategic Review 2021’.

Japan currently fields a multi-layered ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, with upper-tier interception being provided by eight Aegis-equipped destroyers and lower-tier engagement provided by land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) air-defence systems.

A conceptual image of the high-power laser-based weapon system under development by Japan’s ATLA for the JSDF.  (ATLA)

A conceptual image of the high-power laser-based weapon system under development by Japan’s ATLA for the JSDF. (ATLA)

Nonetheless, Japan may face significant difficulties in countering the fast expanding missile capabilities of neighbouring countries, as China and Russia make huge strides in hypersonic weapons technology and North Korea develops new ballistic missiles designed to break through an adversary’s missile defences.

Japan’s Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) for fiscal years 2019–23, which was approved in December 2018, stated that the MoD and the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) would “swiftly promote the research and development of stand-off electronic warfare aircraft, high-power electronic warfare equipment, high-power microwave devices, as well as electromagnetic pulses (EMPs)”.

In July 2020 the MoD in Tokyo provided a few more details when it stated in its latest Defense White Paper, “High-power energy weapons, such as electromagnetic railguns, high-power laser weapons, and high-power microwaves, are being expected as a means to counter various airborne threats.”

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...