Japan plans to buy 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told lower house lawyers on Monday, as part of his government’s push to acquire long-range deterrents against potential threats.
The Kishida government intends to conclude a purchase agreement in 2023 and deploy the Tomahawks in 2026 and 2027 on Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels equipped with the Aegis missile defense system.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada declared before the Lower House Budget Committee that the government was negotiating with the US side to acquire up to 400 of these missiles.
The missiles are part of a defense surge Kishida launched last year with updated national security documents. Japan will try to acquire “counter capabilities,” that is, the ability to hit distant targets that pose a threat to the nation.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party had revealed to the opposition parties the size of the planned purchase at an earlier meeting of the Budget Committee. The opposition pushed for the figure to be made public, although the government was initially reluctant to reveal details about the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces.
Tokyo purchases the Tomahawks under Washington’s Foreign Military Sales program. The US government will notify Congress of the volume of potential sales.
The Japanese government has requested 211.3 billion yen ($1.55 billion) for the purchase of Tomahawk missiles and related equipment in its proposed budget for the fiscal year 2023, which is currently being debated in parliament. The government did not disclose the unit cost of the missiles.
Japan will buy the latest version of the Tomahawk, which began delivery to the US Navy in 2021. The precision-guided missile flies at low altitudes and has a range of more than 1,600 kilometers.
The counter capabilities that Japan is seeking are to go beyond the interception of enemy missiles to attack land and sea targets. The government plans to spend 5 trillion yen to increase attack capabilities for five years to the fiscal year 2027.
The Tomahawk is considered a ready option as Japan prepares for possible military crises around Taiwan or elsewhere in its region. Japan’s main anti-ship guided missile, the Type 12, will be upgraded to more than 1,000 km range, but it and other domestically-made standoff missiles won’t enter service until the fiscal year 2026. It’s unclear how quickly it will be able to increase the production of this equipment.
The United States has also authorized the sale of Tomahawks to the United Kingdom and Australia. There was talk in the past of arming Japan with them, but the proposal never came to fruition.
The Japanese government has asserted that counter-strike capabilities could be called upon in response to direct attacks against the country and to existential threats.
One example that came up in the LDP discussions of the new security documents was a missile attack on US warships in the Sea of Japan.
Asked for more details at the Budget Committee on Friday, Kishida declined to talk about specific cases, citing national security.