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Japan-US military cooperation has entered a stage of deep integration. Tokyo will receive long-range attack weapons

G e N Iuvinale

According to Japanese media reports, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel recently signed a package contract for the purchase of U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles in Tokyo. The contract totals approximately 254 billion yen (approximately US$1.7 billion).

China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands) conflict - Photo GettyImages

According to the contract details, Japan will introduce 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles in batches from 2025 to 2027, and the first batch of 200 old-model missiles is expected to be delivered starting in 2025. Emanuel revealed that the US military may begin training the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in the use of Tomahawk cruise missiles as early as March this year.

Since revising its defense plan outline in 2013, the Japanese government has begun to consider developing so-called "counterattack capabilities" and exploring the possibility of purchasing Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States. In March 2017, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party Government Affairs Investigation Committee proposed the purchase of cruise missiles as a means of attacking enemy bases. In December 2022, Japan revised the "National Security Strategy" and other three security documents, elevating the development of the ability to attack enemy bases to the national will, and subsequently accelerated the procurement coordination progress of "Tomahawk" cruise missiles. In October 2023, Japan replaced some of the 400 latest Tomahawk Block V missiles originally planned to be purchased starting in 2026 with the older Block IV missiles so that delivery could begin in 2025. In November 2023, the U.S. government approved the sale of up to 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan until the two countries formally signed a purchase contract recently.

The Japanese government has initially decided to modify the Maritime Self-Defense Force's eight existing "Aegis" destroyers by 2027 to adapt to the launch needs of "Tomahawk" cruise missiles. Currently, the modification work of these destroyers is progressing, and the related "Tomahawk" cruise missile integration costs have been included in the 2024 budget. In addition to the eight "Aegis" destroyers, Japan's active Murasame-class and Takaha-class destroyers are equipped with the US-made MK-41 vertical launch system, which is theoretically compatible with the "Tomahawk" cruise missile and may become a potential launch platform in the future. With the help of "Tomahawk" cruise missiles with a maximum range of 2,500 kilometers and highly maneuverable destroyers, Japan will quickly acquire long-range strike capabilities covering half of Asia.

Check North Korea and China

It must be said, however, that the United States has long been cautious about giving up offensive weapons to Japan, selling it weapons with limited performance in the name of avoiding irritating neighboring countries. However, the Tomahawk cruise missiles sold this time are offensive weapons, which shows that the United States has changed its assessment of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region and its confidence in Japan has increased. In particular, Japan has revised its defense strategy in recent years and emphasized developing the ability to attack enemy bases, indicating that it will take on more responsibilities in the Japan-US alliance, in line with the current US policy of " emphasis "integrated deterrence" and hoping to improve deterrent capabilities through alliance cooperation.

In the future, US arms sales to Japan may include more strategic and offensive weapons.

Japan's long-range strike capabilities have made revolutionary progress

In recent years, Japan has sought to develop medium- and long-range offensive capabilities and plans to field domestically produced long-range missiles with ground attack capabilities as early as 2026. Currently, Japan is improving and upgrading its missiles from domestic land-to-ship Type 12s and developing new equipment such as hypersonic glide missiles. The introduction of 400 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles will accelerate Japan's acquisition of enemy attack capabilities. In the future, Japan plans to develop systematic long-range strike capabilities by optimizing weapons control systems, launch systems, data transmission systems and satellite navigation systems.

Japan-US military cooperation has entered a stage of deep integration

During the deployment of Tomahawk cruise missiles, Japan needs the United States to provide support in intelligence collection, alert surveillance, target locking, cruise guidance, and combat training. In the future, Japan's "Tomahawk" cruise missile may be included in the US military's combat duty system, and its use authority will still be controlled by the US military.

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