Patriot batteries to be expanded

Kyodo News

Under new defense policy guidelines covering the five years from April 2011, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles will be deployed at air bases nationwide to counter the North Korean ballistic missile threat, officials said.

A draft appendix to the guidelines, which are to be adopted this month and possibly as early as this week, also stipulates equipping all six Aegis destroyers with Standard Missile-3 interceptors while cutting tanks and artillery by about 200 each to 400, the government and Self-Defense Forces officials said.

Along with a plan to increase the number of submarines from 16 to 22 for enhanced vigilance around the Nansei chain of islands in the southwest centering on Okinawa, the planned defense posture is apparently aimed at dealing with North Korea and deterring China.

The move comes amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s shelling of on a South Korean island last month as well as China’s rapid military buildup and increasing naval activity.

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.

Four of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s six Aegis destroyers are equipped at present with SM-3 interceptors designed to knock out an enemy missile before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Defense officials say the increase in submarines is needed because no SDF units are deployed west of Miyako Island near Taiwan and China, making the area a defense “vacuum.”