Japan's Defense Ministry is planning to seek funding in the fiscal 2018 budget for a land-based Aegis missile defense system to strengthen defensive capabilities against a possible ballistic missile attack by North Korea.
Ministry officials have been weighing whether to go with the land-based Aegis Ashore, or the more expensive Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which was developed by the US military, The Asahi Shimbun reported Friday.
However, several government officials said Thursday that it planning to seek funding to study the introduction of the Aegis Ashore system. Defense Ministry officials will officially give Aegis Ashore the thumbs up in July, and the green light will be given to seek government funding in the fiscal 2018 budget.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force uses the Aegis system on its warships as part of the nation's ballistic missile defense system. The Aegis destroyers carry Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptors that can shoot down ballistic missiles outside the Earth's atmosphere.
If the SM-3 fails to hit its target, then all money rides on the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missiles to shoot down the incoming missile after it re-enters the atmosphere.
Present cost estimates for the Aegis Ashore system have one unit priced at about 80 billion yen ($721 million). If the SM-3 Block IIA missile now being developed by Japan and the United States is used in the Aegis Ashore system, all of Japan could theoretically be covered with two units.
Installing the Aegis Ashore system will also allow for greater flexibility when deploying the MSDF's Aegis destroyers in waters around Japan to guard against enemy ballistic missile launches.
On the other hand, installing the THAAD system would have meant deploying at least six launchers around Japan, with each unit costing more than 100 billion yen.
Plans are now being made to have Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visit and inspect an Aegis Ashore experimental facility in Hawaii in July.