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Japan to install first ASDF space surveillance radar in Yamaguchi

It was learned on Nov. 3 that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) will install the first Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) radar dedicated to monitoring Chinese satellite-destruction weapons and space debris, which may hamper the operation of Japanese artificial satellites, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The radar will be deployed in an existing SDF facility, and formal inquiries will be made with the local government before the end of this month. The MOD is also considering forming an analysis unit at an ASDF base in Tokyo or in the ministry to study changes in satellite orbits and other countermeasures based on information gained from the radar.


Yamaguchi Prefecture has been selected for this radar because its location is suitable for monitoring the area around communication satellites in a stationary orbit that go around the earth once a day at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers above the equator.


An SDF facility located in an area with few private residences nearby and where there will be little radio interference has been selected for the site of the radar. Use of this facility will not require the acquisition of new land. The MOD will hold briefings for the local residents shortly to obtain their understanding regarding the deployment.


The orbits of satellites must be altered when they are in danger of colliding with satellite-destruction weapons or debris. At present, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) receives data collected by the Japan Space Forum, based on which it takes measures such as orbit changes. The ASDF shares the data provided to JAXA and also cooperates with it in studying countermeasures.


The U.S. forces have the most advanced technology in space monitoring, and the ASDF also shares information with the U.S. military. There is also a proposal to set up the new analysis unit at the Yokota base (in Tokyo) jointly used by the ASDF and the U.S. forces.


Satellites play an increasingly important security role, including surveillance against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, while China is moving ahead in its development of satellite-destruction weapons. Japanese satellites are facing growing risks of being attacked. (Slightly abridged)

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