Japan is next week to pick a US-made advanced radar for its missile defense system, an upgrade that could help ease trade friction with Washington and provide cutting-edge protection against the arsenals of North Korea and China, sources said.
“Aegis will be a big-ticket purchase; it will be a nice gift for [US] President [Donald] Trump,” a Japanese official said, referring to the ground-based Aegis Ashore system.
Japanese officials could make their radar choice as early as Monday for two Aegis Ashore batteries it wants to deploy in 2023.
That means the purchase could be added to a defense budget proposal slated for release in August, three sources with knowledge of the plan told reporters, declining to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The candidates are Raytheon Co’s SPY-6 and a version of Lockheed Martin Corp’s Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), the sources said.
Japan had sought the SPY-6 last year when it agreed to buy Aegis Ashore, but Washington was reluctant to supply it.
Although Japanese military planners still see North Korea as an immediate danger, they view China’s growing military power as a bigger long-term threat.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force controls an arsenal of hundreds of ballistic missiles that could reach Japan. Upgrades to Japan’s missile defenses system would make it one of the world’s most advanced.
Japanese defense officials have estimated the cost of the two Aegis Ashore batteries at about US$2 billion. The final tally, including the SPY-6 or LRDR, which can detect targets several times farther away than existing Aegis systems operated by Japan or the US, could be at least twice that, the sources said.
Although the upgrade adds expense, it fits with Trump’s stated desire to export more US military hardware.
At a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month, Trump said Abe had pledged to buy “billions and billions of dollars of additional products of all kinds.”
Abe might meet Trump again around the time of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September, a Japanese government official told reporters, declining to say what they would discuss.
Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed Aegis Ashore’s SM-3 Block IIA missiles; Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.
The SPY-6 radar is designed for the US Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped warships. The LRDR is to be integrated into the US Ground-based Midcourse Defense anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska by 2020.
Both cutting-edge radars would allow Japan to make full use of new longer-range interceptors and could be used to defend against any future threat posed by Chinese missiles.
“Aegis Ashore will go ahead because Japan needs it,” one of the sources said.
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