Japan is considering arming submarines with missiles

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December 31, 2021

The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned that Maritime Self-Defense Force submarines could soon be equipped with long-range cruise missiles that can hit ground-based targets.

The move would aim to strengthen Japan’s deterrence by providing a powerful counterattack capability to prevent a possible attack on the nation.

The domestically manufactured missiles would be fired underwater, giving tangible form to the country’s self-defense ability to hit and destroy an enemy’s missile bases and other facilities.

According to several government sources, the missiles will be deployed from the second half of this decade.

The National Security Strategy, which sets out Japan’s basic national security policy, will be revised at the end of 2022. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wants these updated Guiding Principles to state that Japan has the ability to use enemy bases in the name of self-defense. Should the government choose to have this capability, cruise missiles launched from submarines would be a powerful tool for any counterattack.

The government is considering the use of long-range cruise missiles as stand-off missiles, which would be developed as a modified version of the Type-12 surface-to-ship guided missile used by the Ground Self-Defense Forces, the sources said. The ranged missiles are said to have a range of around 1,000 kilometers and are used for counter-attacks against enemy ships and other targets outside the range of the enemy missiles. In the future, it is expected that these missiles could also be used to attack enemy bases.

Japan’s range of missile defense capabilities are currently designed for transport on airplanes and on surface ships. The Ministry of Defense has put development costs of 39.3 billion yen in the draft budget for the financial year 2022 beginning in April.

According to the sources, options are being considered to equip the submarines with a vertical launch system so that missiles can be fired without the ships appearing and to fire the missiles from existing torpedo tubes. The Self-Defense Forces already have anti-ship missiles that can be fired from torpedo tubes, although they have a shorter range than long-range missiles.

China has several ballistic missiles that can reach Japan. In recent years, Beijing has stepped up its military provocations as its naval forces, which include aircraft carriers, have become increasingly active in the waters around Japan and in the East and South China Seas. North Korea is also pushing missile and nuclear development programs.

Maintaining counterattack capability of submarines, which could be underwater anywhere, could make an attack on Japan difficult, even if a nation invading Japan launches a pre-emptive strike that inflicts massive damage on SDF aircraft and surface ships.

The SDF has 21 submarines that incorporate world-class technologies such as excellent travel performance and the ability to quietly navigate underwater to avoid detection by enemy forces.

The government wants to use the capabilities of these submarines to prevent a ballistic missile attack or an invasion of the Japanese islands by a naval fleet


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