• Defense & Security

Japan seeks to buy up to 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S.

From the U.S. Navy website
A U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missile

Buying up to 500 U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles by fiscal 2027 is being considered by the Defense Ministry, as it seeks to accelerate preparations for the possession of counterattack capabilities, sources said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed the plan to advance purchase negotiations during a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden on Nov. 13, according to several U.S. and Japanese government sources.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior ruling coalition partner Komeito have basically agreed on possessing counterattack capabilities that could destroy enemy’s missile launch sites and other targets for self-defense purposes.

They are in the process of finalizing the National Security Strategy to be revised by the end of the year, which is expected to clearly stipulate the possession of weapons such as these missiles.

One concrete means of counterattack capability envisioned is the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, which needs to be upgraded to have a longer range. The improved missile is unlikely to be deployed until fiscal 2026 or later.

In light of factors such as North Korea’s rapid progress in missile launch technology, Japan estimates that it will need to possess up to 500 Tomahawk missiles. The number could of course fluctuate depending on U.S. manufacturing capacity and other issues.

During the Japan-U.S. summit in Phnom Penh on Nov. 13, Kishida put the Tomahawk issue on the agenda, expressing to Biden his determination to drastically strengthen defense capabilities, the sources said.

Biden expressed his recognition that Japan is a high-priority purchaser of defense equipment, and underlined his intention to steadily move forward with procedures in the United States for the sale to proceed.

The United States has strictly limited the sale of the Tomahawk missiles, which have proven their combat effectiveness in various battles since the U.S. military deployed them in the Gulf War in 1991.

According to the U.S. Defense Department, the United Kingdom purchased 65 Tomahawk missiles in 2014 for $140 million.

With the creation of the AUKUS framework for security cooperation between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States in September last year, Washington has promised to sell the missiles to Canberra as well.

The Tomahawk missile is the U.S. military’s mainstay precision-guided cruise missile. With a range of more than 1,250 kilometers, it is capable of pinpointing targets by utilizing GPS location data.