Photo/IllutrationThe new Aegis destroyer Haguro was launched in Yokohama’s Isogo Ward on July 17. (Yoshitaka Ito)

Japan's air defense capabilities got a significant upgrade with the launch of the new Aegis destroyer Haguro, which is equipped with a ballistic missile defense system, on July 17.

The naming and launching ceremony was held in Yokohama’s Isogo Ward.

Eight Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers were planned in the defense program outlined in a Cabinet meeting in fiscal 2013. The Haguro, which is scheduled to go into service in March 2021, is the last of the eight.

The defense program outline in fiscal 2013 noted that having eight Aegis ships equipped with the ballistic missile defense system would allow Japan to continuously protect the entire nation.

“As the eight-destroyer system starts, the capacity to deal with ballistic missiles will be greatly enhanced,” MSDF Chief of Staff Hiroshi Yamamura said at a news conference on July 16.

The Haguro, built at a cost of about 173.4 billion yen ($1.6 billion), is named after Mount Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture. The vessel is about 170 meters in length and can carry a crew of about 300.