In response to escalating security concerns in Asia, Japan accelerates the delivery of Raytheon missiles, bolstering its defense capabilities.
Driven by the deepening security situation in Asia, Japan has expedited its plans to acquire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States.
Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara recently announced that Tokyo will begin receiving these missiles a year earlier than initially planned, with deliveries starting in fiscal year 2025.
This move comes as Japan seeks to enhance its defense capabilities and respond to the evolving security landscape in the region.
Responding to Growing Regional Threats
The decision to accelerate the missile procurement, as reported by Kyodo News, is a direct response to the “worsening” security environment in Asia.
Under the revised plan, Japan intends to acquire 200 Tomahawk Block IV missiles between fiscal years 2025 and 2027, a departure from its initial plan to procure 400 Block 5 missiles in fiscal years 2026 and 2027.
This change aims to swiftly bolster Japan’s defense capabilities to address potential threats.
Tomahawk Versions: Block IV and Block V Compared
According to sources cited by Kyodo News, the second batch of 200 missiles will consist of the Block V version.
While both Block IV and Block V Tomahawk missiles share similar features, including a compatible launching system, their exact range specifications differ. The Block IV has a stated range of 1,600 kilometers (994 miles), while the exact range of the Block V remains undisclosed.
3…2…1…FIRE!!! 🎯 #USSChafee launches a Block V Tomahawk during a missile exercise in the Pacific Ocean. This event marked the first time a Block V Tomahawk missile was operationally tested, signaling the #USNavy’s transition to a more advanced capability for the fleet. pic.twitter.com/VqC0oHMBz6
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 10, 2020
One notable feature of the Tomahawk cruise missile is its versatility in carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. It can deliver warheads with yields ranging from 5 to 150 kilotons for nuclear payloads and 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) for conventional warheads.
This flexibility makes it a valuable asset for Japan’s defense strategy.
Japan’s Financial Planning for Missile Procurement
In terms of budget allocation, Japan has earmarked 211.3 billion yen ($1.4 billion USD) for missile procurement in fiscal year 2023.
The decision to acquire the older version of the missile is expected to result in cost savings, given that approximately half of the missiles being purchased will be of the Block IV variant.
Japan’s primary objective in procuring the Tomahawk cruise missiles is to bolster its “counterstrike” capability, including the ability to target adversary missile bases from which imminent threats may originate.
However, it’s important to note that the planned procurement is contingent upon approval from the United States Congress.
Strengthening the Japan-US Alliance
The accelerated missile acquisition plan announcement followed Defense Minister Kihara’s meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon early this month.
During their discussions, Kihara emphasized the need to enhance the capabilities of the Japan-US alliance to deter and respond to countries that pose a threat to the existing regional status quo. Notably, the countries of concern mentioned included China, Russia, and North Korea.
Moreover, Kihara’s announcement aligns with broader efforts to modernize and strengthen the Japan-US alliance’s deterrence and response capabilities. The security challenges presented by China, North Korea, and Russia have led both countries to reevaluate their defense strategies and cooperation.
To achieve its “counterstrike” capabilities, Japan plans to acquire a total of 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles, with a strike range of approximately 1,600 kilometers. This additional procurement will significantly enhance Tokyo’s defense capabilities while it works towards developing domestically manufactured cruise missiles.
A Resolute Commitment to the Indo-Pacific: Collaborative Action and Regional Stability
US Defense Secretary Austin welcomed Kihara to the Pentagon, acknowledging the historical significance of the US-Japan alliance. Austin expressed his commitment to collaborating closely with Japan to address challenges posed by China’s assertive behavior, North Korea’s provocations, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
During their hour-long meeting, the defense chiefs discussed priorities for Japanese and US forces in the coming years, emphasizing the importance of maintaining an open, free, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
“Now we face major shared challenges, including the PRC’s coercive behavior and North Korea’s dangerous provocations, and Russia’s reckless war of choice against Ukraine, but America’s Article 5 treaty commitment to the defense of Japan remains ironclad and it covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands,” Austin remarked.
Both officials stressed the necessity of strengthening the alliance’s capabilities to deter and respond to any attempts to change the regional status quo through force. They also reaffirmed their commitment to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
In light of China’s increased military activities and its growing cooperation with Russia, Japan, and the United States have agreed to enhance their cooperation more than ever. They recognize the significance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and are working together to ensure it is upheld.
Japan’s recent decision to expedite the procurement of Tomahawk cruise missiles is part of a broader effort to bolster its defense capabilities in response to evolving regional threats.
With a focus on maintaining the security of the Indo-Pacific region, Japan and the United States continue to strengthen their alliance and cooperation, adapting to the changing dynamics of the international security landscape.