TOKYO: The Japanese Defense Ministry’s budget request for fiscal 2024 has highlighted the ballooning costs of its plan to introduce new Aegis-equipped vessels to be on the lookout for missiles.
The recently submitted budget request includes 490 billion yen in expenses for the construction of the two Aegis vessels and for other related matters, such as preparations for live-fire tests.
The overall Aegis-related costs will reach 900 billion yen if the amount already spent to purchase large radar and weapons systems made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and other items is included.
The total is 200 billion yen higher than an estimate compiled under the government’s Defense Buildup Program for fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2027, which was released last December.
As the reason behind the increase, the ministry has pointed to factors such as a rise in procurement costs due to the yen’s weakening.
“We’ll procure enough funds to make up for the increase by efficiently acquiring equipment including through bulk purchases,” a ministry official said.
The official added that despite the expanded Aegis-related costs, the ministry will not exceed the projected five-year defense spending of 43 trillion yen under the buildup program.
The two Aegis-equipped vessels will be introduced as an alternative to the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system, which the government had planned to deploy in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. The Aegis Ashore plan has been scrapped.
The vessels will play a pivotal role in Japan’s missile defense.
The ministry plans to equip the vessels with US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of its efforts to acquire counterstrike capabilities.
“Possessing air defense and counterstrike capabilities, (the vessels) will be floating fortresses,” a senior Maritime Self-Defense Force member said.
Both vessels are expected to be 190 meters long and 25 meters wide, with a standard displacement of 12,000 tons. They are expected to be bigger than Japan’s state-of-the-art 8,200-ton Maya-class Aegis ships.
The new vessels are expected to be equipped with a vertical launch system capable of holding 128 missiles, 30 pct more than the capacity at the Maya-class ships.
The Tomahawk missiles and an upgraded version of the Type 12 surface-to-ship missile being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will be mounted on the new vessels as early as 2032.
The two vessels will also be able to launch the Glide Phase Interceptor missile, which will be jointly developed by Japan and the United States, to deal with hypersonic weapons under development in China, Russia and elsewhere.
The vessels will also have high-power laser equipment capable of responding to an attack by swarms of drones.
One of the two vessels will be commissioned in fiscal 2027, and the other in fiscal 2028.
The two vessels will be tasked with round-the-clock vigilance and surveillance activities in the Sea of Japan.
Possible deployment destinations include the MSDF’s Sasebo base in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki and Maizuru base in the western prefecture of Kyoto.