Japan will build two more Aegis-equipped destroyers by 2020, a local newspaper is reporting.
According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, a right-leaning Japanese newspaper, the Japanese government will start funding construction of new Aegis ships over the next two fiscal years. The Defense Ministry will allocate funding for the first ship during fiscal year 2015, while the second ship will begin receiving funds in FY2016.
In the 2014 National Defense Program Guidelines, which were approved by the Cabinet in December 2013, Tokyo said it intended to build two new Aegis-equipped ships within the next decade. The Yomiuri Shimbun report, which cited “unnamed sources” without providing further details, suggests that the timetable outlined in the National Defense Program Guidelines has now been accerelated.
The report said that each additional Aegis ship would cost 150 billion yen (approximately $1.5 billion) and take around five years to complete. Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces (MSDF) already operates six Aegis-equipped destroyers.
The Yomiuri Shimbun report suggested that North Korea was the main factor driving the decision to acquire additional Aegis-equipped destroyers. North Korea has been testing missiles—including ballistic missiles—at an unprecedented rate this year. After Pyongyang tested two Rodong-class (Nodong) mid-range ballistic missiles back in March, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ordered the MSDF to shoot down any ballistic missile North Korea launched throughout most of the month of April. One of Japan’s Aegis-equipped destroyers was deployed to the Sea of Japan to lend credibility to that threat.
Also during April of this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the United States would forward deploy two additional Aegis-equipped ships to Japan by 2017. He cited North Korea’s provocations as the main reason for the reinforcements.
“In response to Pyongyang¹s pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions, including recent missile launches in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, I can announce today that the United States is planning to forward-deploy two additional Aegis ballistic missile defense ships to Japan by 2017,” Hagel said at the time.
The U.S. currently deploys five Aegis-equipped destroyers in Japan.
Defense Minister Onodera has also cited the continuous missile threat from North Korea as the reason why Japan’s MSDF would need to acquire additional Aegis ships.
The Japanese and American Aegis vessels will also boost the alliance’s ability to defend against China’s growing ballistic missile capabilities, including the DF-21 “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missile.
Aegis ships are also expected to work seamlessly with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with the F-35 greatly enhancing the Aegis system’s effectiveness. Not coincidentally, the three Asian nations that operate Aegis-equipped vessels—namely Australia, South Korea and Japan—are the same ones that have committed to buying F-35s.