Patriot PAC-3 launcher parked outside the Ministry of Defense building during 2009's North Korean missile crisis, Shinjuku, Tokyo. (As a side note, check out the new camouflage uniform pattern.)

Japan is increasing its BMD defenses, doubling the number of air defense units equipped with Patriot PAC-3 from 3 to 6.

The PAC-3 missile system, designed to shoot down an incoming missile from the ground moments before reaching its target, will be deployed by all six Air Self-Defense Force air-defense missile groups from three at present, the officials said.

The three groups that currently have the system are at the Iruma base in Saitama Prefecture covering the Tokyo metropolitan area, the Kasuga base in Fukuoka Prefecture responsible for security in Kyushu and the Gifu base aimed at defending Nagoya and Osaka.

The other ASDF bases — in Chitose, Hokkaido; Misawa, Aomori Prefecture; and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture — are currently equipped with PAC-2 missiles designed to shoot down enemy aircraft.

Under the fiscal 2011 budget, the government is eyeing transferring some PAC-3 missiles to Chitose and Misawa in the north from their current bases while introducing new PAC-3s to cover Naha. (Link)

This actually represents a exponential increase in ready air defense firepower, as the PAC-3 version of Patriot is smaller, with four missiles fitting where one PAC-1 or PAC-2 used to fit. A fully loaded Patriot launcher can now hold 16 missiles, instead of the previous 4. (The photo above, taken at the MoD, shows only a partially loaded launcher, with just four or eight PAC-3 missiles.) Japan began license production of the PAC-3 about two years ago.

Japan is also and is expanding BMD shootdown capability to all six Aegis destroyers, up from 4. This means the Atago class Aegis destroyers will also receive the BMD mission. Atago destroyers are improved versions of the Kongo-class destroyers, with helicopter hangars and an improved 5″ gun, and are the equivalent of the Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

JS Atago at RIMPAC 2010. U.S. Navy photo.
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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch