Govt eyes U.S. Tomahawk missiles to bolster defense

Image from U.S. Navy website
A Tomahawk missile

The Japanese government has approached the United States about purchasing Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of efforts to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities, according to government sources.

Tokyo and Washington have entered the final stage of negotiations, the sources said.

Although Japan is moving forward with a plan to upgrade its domestic missiles as a means of possessing counterattack capability, Tomahawks are considered to be necessary for strengthening deterrence at an early stage, according to the sources.

With a range of more than 1,250 kilometers, the Tomahawk is the United States’ mainstay precision-guided cruise missile. The missile uses global positioning system (GPS) satellite location data and other information to destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy.

Tomahawks have been used in a number of battles since they were first deployed in the Gulf War in 1991, and the high performance of the missiles has been demonstrated.

The Japanese government is revising its national security strategy, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The possession of counterattack capabilities to destroy enemy missile launch sites for self-defense purposes is expected to be included in the security document. Tomahawk missiles are likely to be part of those counterattack capabilities.

According to the sources, the government envisions modifying vertical launchers for interceptor missiles on Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis vessels and deploying Tomahawks on the vessels, which would put the Korean Peninsula and nearby areas within range, depending on the launch position.

Japan plans to upgrade the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship guided missile as a means of counterattack capability by extending its range to 1,000 kilometers. However, deployment is not expected until 2026.

The government has been working on first acquiring missiles from other countries to quickly secure counterattack capabilities, and then plans to include domestically developed missiles.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, who took office in August, decided to acquire Tomahawk missiles and began full-fledged negotiations with the U.S. government.

The Pentagon — which emphasizes integrated deterrence through cooperation with allied nations — has almost approved the plan and final adjustments are being made within the U.S. government, according to sources close to Tokyo and Washington.

A Tomahawk missile is estimated to cost between ¥100-¥200 million.