Japan to modernize its anti-aircraft missiles to neutralize hypersonic threats.

According to Nikkei Asia, Japan plans to deploy a new homegrown missile by the end of the fiscal year 2027 that can destroy ballistic and hypersonic glide weapons.

The new missile is intended to protect the country’s outlying islands and critical infrastructure, including nuclear power facilities.

According to the report, trial production of the upgraded Type-03 medium-range surface-to-air missile will begin in the fiscal year 2023. Mitsubishi Electric manufactures the missile for Japanese forces.

The missile, also known as the Chu-SAM, complements the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile. Conventional air defense systems cannot intercept it.

Hypersonic gliders, which can reach speeds of up to Mach 5 and take wildly erratic courses, are impossible to intercept with conventional air defenses. Yet after some software tweaks, the new missile will be able to stop even supersonic projectiles.

In addition, the report adds that a new version with improved hardware, including better guidance and launch mechanisms, is expected to be introduced around 2030.

Fourteen ground units throughout Japan will use the improved Chu-SAM. According to one proposal, half of them would be relocated to the Nansei Islands, a chain of islands in the southwest that also includes Okinawa.

Some potential launch sites for the new missile could be:

  • The GSDF’s Yonaguni camp.
  • Some 110 kilometers from Taiwan.
  • A new camp is due to start operating in March on nearby Ishigaki Island.

As Russia and China have made significant progress in hypersonic weapons, Tokyo has been developing the ability to intercept them.

Even the most recent step is part of a plan to improve Japan’s ability to defend itself from air and missile attacks. With Japan’s current missile defense capability, Self-Defense Forces top brass see stopping hypersonic glider weapons as challenging.

The Eurasian Times reports that the planned change will enhance the Type-03 missiles’ capability to predict the flight path of hypersonic weapons, track them, and detect them using radar.

The report noted that it is easy to adjust domestically manufactured equipment in response to changes in the security environment.

Japan to modernize its anti-aircraft missiles to neutralize hypersonic threats.
Type-03 medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM-4 or Chu-SAM)

Japan is looking to add another layer of defense.

Russia and China have created cutting-edge technology in the form of hypersonic glide vehicles, which can traverse 20 to 100 kilometers at speeds five times faster than the speed of sound.

North Korea has also carried out a series of missile launches, raising regional tensions. So with China, Russia, and North Korea in mind, Japan wants to strengthen deterrence.

In its revised National Security Strategy, published in December last year, the government stated that it aspired to increase the involvement of the Self-Defense Forces in the security of nuclear power plants and other crucial sites.

The present ballistic missile defense system in Japan consists of two stages. The first is the Standard Missile-3, fired from Aegis ships and made to destroy interplanetary targets.

If this doesn’t work, the PAC-3s of the Air Self-Defense Force will destroy them on reentry. The addition of the new missile would strengthen Japan’s defenses. It has several potential applications, including at GSDF outposts.

Japan to modernize its anti-aircraft missiles to neutralize hypersonic threats.
Japanese navy destroyer JS Haguro Maya-class equipped with AEGIS.

However, the improved Chu-SAMs and PAC-3s only have a range of about 100 kilometers. Japanese military strategists believe that Tokyo must rapidly develop the ability to stop hypersonic weapons.

In January, the defense ministers of Japan and the United States decided to work together to develop this technology.

However, the Type-03 medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM-4 or Chu-SAM) remains essential to Japan’s defense system. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force procured the Type-03 missiles in 2003 to counter air targets.

The missiles underwent initial modification in 2017 to counter low-flying cruise missiles and rapid-entry projectiles. It uses advanced active electronically scanned radar. The system can simultaneously track up to 100 targets and destroy fighters, helicopters, and cruise missiles.