With the ongoing unrest in the region, Japan has especially recognized the critical importance of bolstering its defense capabilities now more than ever.

As a maritime nation situated in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan experiences a security environment molded by territorial disputes and the imperative to safeguard its interests at sea, which is why it was a significant step for the island country to have recently closed a deal with two of its largest defense contractors for the development of anti-ship and hypersonic missiles.

Last week, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) signed contracts with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), granting these manufacturers to produce weapons capable of countering the evolving security challenges in the region.

Future Japanese Anti-Ship, Hypersonic Missiles

In a press release issued by the MoD on June 6, three contracts have been signed with MHI, focusing on hypersonic weapons research and the development of an upgraded Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP), as well as target observation rounds. These initiatives are part of Japan’s broader strategy to modernize its military assets and stay at the forefront of advanced defense technologies.

One of the key projects involves the development of an upgrade HVGP with an extended range compared to the early deployment type. The MoD has allocated a substantial budget of JPY200.3 billion (approximately USD1.4 billion) for this purpose.

The spokesperson for the MoD stated that the development of the upgraded HVGP is scheduled to be completed by the fiscal year 2030, subsequently enhancing the island country’s anti-ship capabilities and providing a significant deterrence against potential threats in the maritime domain.

Prompted by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the proactive pursuit and rapid advancement of neighboring Asian powers in their military arsenal, Japan responded by considering and ultimately embracing the deployment of hypersonic missiles to bolster its counterstrike capabilities—a concept that was first brought up and deliberated upon last year.

This graphic in Japanese illustrates Japan’s two upcoming hypersonic weapons: (1) the Hypersonic Cruise Missile and (2) the Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile. (Image source: Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency)

In addition to the HVGP, the MoD has allocated JPY58.5 billion for research on hypersonic weapons, a rising technology known for its ability to travel at extremely high speeds—making them difficult to intercept using conventional defense systems. Many countries have already attempted to produce this type of munition, including Russia and China, who claimed to have successfully test-fired their own, while the United States continues its pursuit of perfecting it.