The Japan Self-Defense Force will develop supersonic glide bombs that will give it the capability of delivering substantial combat power to outlying islands from outside the range of enemy air and sea-based defenses.
The Defense Ministry told Japanese media that the JSDF will first develop an early prototype with an eye towards full production and deployment by 2025. Funding for the project has already been earmarked in the current defense budget, with an additional 13.8 billion yen (US$122 million) requested for next year’s budget.
The South China Morning Post reported:
Garren Mulloy, an associate professor of international relations at Japan’s Daito Bunka University and an authority on defence issues, said the new weapon would be designed to complement the cruise missiles that the Japanese military has already deployed.
“Up until now, the Japanese have been very short of these precision-guided munitions, especially in comparison to the US, Nato or the Russians, so it comes as no surprise that they want to look into these sorts of weapons,” he said.
The glide bombs are to be deployed on land-based, mobile launchers, making it easier to conceal them and harder for an enemy to target.
The bombs are to be attached to missiles and then released towards their target after reaching a height of about 12.5 miles.
Analysis: The Japanese are growing increasingly concerned that China will someday move to occupy — Bejing says ‘reclaim’ — the Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu Islands, and thus is arming up for that potential confrontation.
The development comes as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, pushes for a more muscular military in the face of a rising revisionist China. In April 2014, for instance, he lefted a ban on sales of Japanese weapons systems to other countries, though defense firms have not actually sold any systems.
That said, Japan has weapons research and development agreements with Britain, Australia and France. And Japan is interested in assisting in making the maritime forces of its Asian allies and neighbors more capable through transfers of ships and other platforms, though thus far such transfers have been limited to sales of TC-90 surveillance aircraft to the Philippines.
As the security situation continues to grow more concerning for the Japanese, we expect Abe to continue increasing his country’s offensive and defensive combat capabilities. Japan has the technological know-how to produce a world-class military; Abe is limited by his country’s pacifist constitution (which he wants to change) and public sentiment, which is divided at present.
We expect that Japanese sentiment will shift in Abe’s favor once China’s saber-rattling becomes louder and more threatening.