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SECURITY > Defense Industry

U.S. manufacturers in cutthroat competition for radar business

  • November 17, 2018
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 28
  • JMH Translation

On Sept. 28, a seminar on cyberterrorism and missile defense was held at a hotel in Tokyo. In the symposium were some 30 people, including executives from Japanese and foreign defense companies and retired officers of the Self-Defense Forces. The seminar was organized by the Center for International Strategic Studies, a general incorporated association chaired by Fumio Kyuma, who once served as director general of the now-defunct Defense Agency, now raised to the status of a ministry, and who was the first defense minister. Kyuma retired from politics after losing his seat in the 2009 Lower House election. But he has broad connections in the Japanese and American defense sectors.


After Kyuma delivered his opening remarks, Yoshihiro Sakaue, a retired Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) official, gave a speech. He said, “We are now in an age where missiles play a major role in wars.” Sakaue has experience in commanding an Aegis ship during a Rim of the Pacific Exercise. After retirement, he also served as a senior advisor to the American military equipment maker Raytheon. The theme of Sakaue’s speech was the “Aegis Ashore” land-based missile defense system, which the government has decided to introduce. He raised a question about the government’s selection of the U.S. Lockheed Martin Solid State Radar (SSR) for the Aegis Ashore missile defense system.


One SSR is believed to be priced at approximately 17.5 billion yen. But Sakaue says: “[The SSR] is still at the planning stage and missile firing tests are yet to be conducted [for the SSR]. So Japan may have to shoulder testing costs and the price could go up further.”


“That story is enough to stop Diet deliberations,” said former Defense Agency Director General Toshitsugu Saito, who was among the audience.


North Korea had repeatedly conducted nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2016. A senior official of the Ministry of Defense (MOD) reveals: “Everybody thought Japan should strengthen its missile defense. The Prime Minister’s Office took the position that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the land-based Aegis system are both made in the U.S., so either would do.”


After the land-based Aegis system’s introduction was finalized, the MOD received written proposals from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for the SSR and the Raytheon SPY-6 radar and began selecting a radar.


Many in the Japanese defense industry believed that “Raytheon has the upper hand” because the U.S. Navy, which mounts Lockheed Martin’s SPY-1 radar on its Aegis ships, will upgrade to Raytheon’s SPY-6. But in July this year, the MOD gave a decision in favor of Lockheed Martin, sending a shockwave through the defense industry.


Takayoshi Yamazaki, a retired lieutenant general of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), currently a consultant having close ties with Lockheed Martin, analyzes why Lockheed Martin was chosen, saying, “The company successfully improved the radar’s performance without changing its size by using a gallium nitride semiconductor made in Japan.” In other words, Lockheed Martin lost a business opportunity in the U.S. but has now retrieved it in Japan.


Stephen Town, a retired U.S. Army colonel who once worked for Raytheon, points out, “The selection of a radar is not just for choosing a radar for the Aegis Ashore.” The next scene for a radar marketing battle is the MSDF for its Aegis ships.


The MSDF plans to increase the number of its Aegis ships from six to eight by fiscal 2020 while improving the missile defense capability of the existing six ships. The two additional Aegis ships will be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s SPY-1 radar. But a retried MSDF official says, “Radars will start to be upgraded in the near future.” Upgrading a radar is a huge business worth more than 10 billion yen.


Japan now introduces expensive weapons primarily from the U.S. The world’s military equipment manufacturers and trading houses are watching for business opportunities.

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