Japan inks hypersonic missile deal to fortify defenses against China

Mitsubishi will help build Japan's ground-launched Type 12 guided missiles designed to target ships at sea and hypersonic glide missiles designed for island defense.
Baba Tamim
Stock photo: Japan's ballistic warheads.
Japan's ballistic warheads.


Japan has revealed plans to develop and produce a variety of cutting-edge long-range missiles to fortify its defenses against China. 

The contracts have been signed with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to create and mass-produce the weapons through 2027, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry on Tuesday. 

"MHI will begin mass production this year on two types of already developed missiles – ground-launched Type 12 guided missiles designed to target ships at sea and hypersonic glide missiles designed for island defense," said the ministry. 

"Deployment of those weapons is scheduled for 2026 and 2027," as per the agreement. 

The $2.8 billion defense deal comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida declared in December that he intended to increase defense spending. 

And give Japan "counterstrike capabilities"—the capacity to attack another country's territory directly in an emergency and under specific conditions.

Expanded range – Type 12

The new statement from the Defense Ministry did not specify how many of "each missile would be acquired."

MHI will start working on more sophisticated Type 12 iterations this year that can also be launched from ships and aircraft. 

The upgraded Type 12 will have a range of up to 620 miles (1,000 kilometers), five times as far as the present model, per the defense news website Janes

The enhanced Type 12 SSM has characteristics including an increased missile length, a redesigned shape, an up-to-date command (UTDC) link, and increased engine endurance to facilitate longer missions. Its range has also been expanded from 124 to 620 miles (200 to 1,000 kilometers). 

Japan's military tech build-up against China

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are working together to develop a defensive system that could shoot down hypersonic weapons, notably ones that fly through the stratosphere, according to a Popular Mechanics report last week. 

Both nations are afraid that hypersonic missiles, which travel at breakneck speeds, could outperform current defenses if they are developed by China, Russia, or North Korea.

Japan has started work on new, more powerful rocket engines that will power a hypersonic glide vehicle interceptor, according to the daily Nikkei from 2022. 

The system would borrow some features from the SM-3 ballistic-missile interceptor, which is also a joint American-Japanese project and is launched from ships and has the Aegis Combat System installed.

Japan's present military buildup coincides with rising tensions with China, which has been expanding its naval and air forces in areas close to Japan while claiming sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Japan controls.

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