Japan’s Defense Ministry to develop hypersonic missiles

Reuters file photo
A Russian MiG-31 fighter jet equipped with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile flies over Red Square during a rehearsal for a military parade in Moscow in May.

The Defense Ministry plans to develop hypersonic missiles with an ultimate range of 3,000 kilometers, aiming to deploy them in the first half of the 2030s, according to government officials.

The missiles would fly on an irregular trajectory at more than five times the speed of sound, making them difficult to intercept. In addition to defending Japanese territory, the ministry is also considering using the missiles for counterstrike purposes, to attack enemy missile launching sites and other locations in self-defense.

China and Russia are ahead of Japan in the development of hypersonic missiles, and Russian forces have deployed them in Ukraine. Japan’s Defense Ministry has decided that it is necessary to accelerate development for their future deployment.

The ministry is already researching an engine and a device called a seeker that can accurately identify targets in the air. It hopes to begin manufacturing a prototype as soon as possible. The range of the missiles would be upgraded in stages.

A range of 3,000 kilometers would allow the missiles to fly from Hokkaido to the Nansei Islands. This would help hold off foreign troops aiming to land on the Nansei Islands and improve deterrence.

“As technology progresses in the future, [missiles with a range of] 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers will be created,” Takaki Kawashima, chief of the ministry’s Defense Buildup Planning Bureau, said at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the House of Councillors on Tuesday.