Experiment vessel plans in works as Japan looks to possess submarines carrying long-range missiles

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Moves are being made to build an experiment vessel to examine technical issues toward possibly possessing submarines capable of firing long-range missiles, government sources have said.

The development plan will be included in the National Defense Program Guidelines to be revised by the year-end.

If the development progresses for actual deployment, Tomahawk cruise missiles that the government has approached the U.S. government about purchasing will be an option for the vessel.

The government is considering possessing defensive-minded counterattack capabilities to destroy such facilities as an enemy’s missile launch site. The government plans to use the modified version of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles as well as possible Tomahawk missiles as mainstay long-range missiles for such purpose.

The government had in mind ground vehicles, surface ships and aircraft as launch equipment for such missiles. However, it is relatively easy for an enemy to detect where the long-range missiles are deployed using such equipment. Thus, the government has decided that adding submarines as an option.

The construction of the experiment submarine will start in fiscal 2024 and is expected to take several years. As for launch methods, vertical firing from the body of the vessel and horizontal firing from a torpedo tube will be studied. Based on the trial operation of the experiment submarine, the government will determine within 10 years whether to introduce such a submarine for actual defense operations.

Currently, the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s submarines are mainly equipped with torpedoes and short-range anti-ship missiles. The latest Taigei-class submarines are equipped with surface-to-surface/anti-ship dual-use missiles. But the range of those missiles is only about 250 kilometers. Tomahawks can be fired from submarines and have a range of more than 1,250 kilometers.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom — possess submarines capable of firing surface-to-surface long-range missiles. South Korea also deploys submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles.—