WASHINGTON - Japan and the United States are working toward the joint development of a new radar system for Aegis-equipped U.S. Navy warships, as part of efforts to improve defense capabilities, diplomatic sources said Sunday.
Coordination between the two countries on the plan aimed at developing capabilities to counter new weapons, including hypersonic missiles currently being developed by China and Russia, has entered its final phase, the sources said.
Japan, which also faces nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, is hoping to strengthen its security alliance with the United States through the joint development program.
Tokyo regards the envisioned joint development as important to national defense, but its involvement in the project could cause concerns about the country being seen as encouraging an arms race between major powers, some observers have said.
Japan’s development together with the United States of the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor completed this month, with the device now having moved into production.
The new radar system, anticipated to provide 360 degree surveillance on the warships, is expected to be the next pillar of the nation’s defense collaboration with Washington.
Two different types of air and missile defense radar are planned for the warships in the future, including the AN/SPY-6 — an upgraded radar system suitable for detecting high-altitude threats. The AN/SPY-6 system is on schedule to be delivered starting in 2020.
Currently the AN/SPQ-9B system is used to detect and track low-flying threats, but it is a traditional rotating radar that makes blind spots unavoidable.
The new radar eyed for development by Japan and the United States will be a nonrotating system, according to the sources.
When placing a recent order for five AN/SPQ-9B units the U.S. Navy paid $21.5 million, according to U.S. media reports. The new system could be even more expensive.