The Yomiuri Shimbun – The government has been making final arrangements to deploy ground-based Aegis Ashore units, which are scheduled to be introduced to reinforce the nation’s missile defense system, in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures, according to government sources.
The units will be deployed at facilities of the Ground Self-Defense Force near the Sea of Japan and will be operated mainly by the GSDF, the sources said.
The Aegis Ashore is a ground-based facility that has a function equivalent to that of an Aegis-equipped destroyer. The government aims to start operation around fiscal 2023.
New SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors will be deployed at the Aegis Ashore facilities, making it possible for Japan to cover all its territory with two Aegis Ashore units against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.
From the viewpoint of avoiding duplication of defense ranges, the government is considering deploying the units in Akita Prefecture in eastern Japan and in Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan.
The facilities are said to require a wide land area as high-intensity radio waves are emitted by the radar. For that reason, the GSDF’s exercise areas and other sites are likely candidates for the Aegis Ashore facilities.
Under the current missile defense system, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) carried by Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers intercepts ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ground-to-air guided missile then shoots them down if they survive the SM-3 attack.
However, the GSDF is not currently in a position to intercept the missiles.
The plan with Aegis Ashore units is aimed at strengthening the nation’s ability to deal with North Korea’s ballistic missiles by involving the GSDF, which has the largest number of personnel among the three branches of the Self-Defense Forces, in the missile defense system, according to the sources.