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SECURITY > Self-Defense Forces

MOD to develop hypersonic cruise missile

  • September 20, 2018
  • , Tokyo Shimbun evening edition , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) will develope a “hypersonic cruise missile,” which can fly at a speed of Mach 5 or faster and evade enemy radar nets. The ministry has earmarked 6.4 billion yen in its budgetary request for fiscal 2019 to conduct technology research on a special engine that generates hypersonic speed. The hypersonic cruise missile is considered to be a next-generation weapon to replace nuclear weapons. But the development of such a missile will likely cause concerns that it may lead to the possession of the “capability to attack enemy bases,” which could destroy the enemy’s missile launching pads.


The U.S., China, and Russia are competing in developing hypersonic weapons. The MOD envisages using hypersonic cruise missiles as antiship missiles to defend islands. “The purpose [of developing a hypersonic cruise missile] is to improve the capabilities of existing antiship missiles, which is different than in the case of the United States and other countries,” a ministry official said, adding, “There’s no change in our policy of relying on the United States for the capability of striking enemy bases.”


The MOD’s budget estimate earmarked is for technology research on a “scramjet engine,” which makes hypersonic speed possible. It will prototype a scramjet engine after establishing technologies for burning jet fuel during high-speed flight and for manufacturing heat-resistant materials. The engine will be tested from 2023 to 2025 at a facility where air currents can be reproduced.


The MOD is yet to expect when it can put the technologies into practical use. It will seek cooperation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as the agency has done research on aircraft.


Nuclear nations, such as the U.S., China, and Russia, are pursuing the ability to use hypersonic weapons in actual battles as the world is moving toward nuclear disarmament and that is giving rise to the need for conventional weapons with high striking power.


In recent years, the MOD has been introducing longer-range and higher-speed equipment. In fiscal 2018, it budgeted costs related to the introduction of long-range cruise missiles.

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