By YOSHITAKA ITO/ Staff Writer
October 5, 2020 at 17:00 JST
The Defense Ministry will soon start full-scale research on deploying a missile-defense system on a floating platform, despite time constraints, unknown costs and resistance from the United States, multiple government sources said.
Under the proposed plan, the offshore system will use the radar and other equipment from the now-abandoned land-based Aegis Ashore project.
The ministry is expected to seek companies with experience in producing missile defense systems, including Aegis-equipped ships, and place orders by the end of October. Japan Marine United Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. are among the companies that the ministry has in mind, the sources said.
Contracting out such work is not unusual for the ministry. But research for such a project typically takes years to complete, according to a ministry official.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed the ministry to present by the end of the year an alternative plan for the land-based Aegis Ashore project that was dropped in June.
Some ministry officials have expressed skepticism over whether a plan will be ready by that deadline.
It would be unprecedented if the ministry speeds up the process to achieve such a quick result.
“It is already challenging,” a ministry official said. “And the (government) wants to do it with a time limit. The research will be rough-and-ready work.”
Converting a land-based missile defense system into a floating one would also be unprecedented.
The government in June gave up on plans to deploy the U.S.-built Aegis defense system in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures, citing rising costs and safety concerns of residents in those areas.
During subsequent talks, U.S. officials recommended Japan still use the Aegis system on land.
However, Japan later told the United States that Aegis system components would be used in a sea-based system.
U.S. officials have expressed concerns about the feasibility of the floating platform idea, saying it would be too costly and technically difficult to convert the land-based into one used on the ocean. Their objections were relayed to their Japanese counterparts, sources said.
The U.S. side again suggested that alternative system be deployed on land, according to the sources.
The Defense Ministry has presented three options for the platform: a destroyer, a large commercial ship or an oil rig.
But there are concerns that operations of such a platform could be hampered by meteorological influences, contradicting the selling point for the Aegis Ashore system, which was to provide the entire country with seamless, around-the-clock protection against North Korean ballistic missiles.
“There is a possibility that Japan’s defense ability will become weaker than planned,” a top ministry official said. “Are we going to spend a hefty sum on such a thing? And how could we earn the public’s understanding?”
One of the biggest reasons for the scrapping of the Aegis Ashore deployment plan was that Japanese officials late in the game realized that the rocket booster required safety upgrades that would take 12 years to complete and cost tens of billions of yen.
A lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who specializes in national defense said of the ministry’s research plan: “The Defense Ministry tends to charge ahead with no verification, like they did with the rocket booster issue.
“It will be an absolute disaster if they make the time limit a top priority and fail again.”
Visit this page for the latest news on Japan’s battle with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.
Haruki Murakami and other writers read from books before selected audiences at the new Haruki Murakami Library.
The Asahi Shimbun aims “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” through its Gender Equality Declaration.
Let’s explore the Japanese capital from the viewpoint of wheelchair users and people with disabilities with Barry Joshua Grisdale.