• Kyodo

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The Maritime Self-Defense Force will deploy its sixth Aegis warship, to be equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles, at Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, when the vessel is completed in spring 2008, according to MSDF sources.

Currently, Japan has a fleet of four 7,250-ton Aegis destroyers — the Kongou and Choukai, both based in Sasebo, the Myoukou in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, and the Kirishima in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The sixth Aegis warship is under construction in the city of Nagasaki. At 7,700 tons, it is a larger version of the four destroyers now in service.

The fifth Aegis vessel, the Atago, to be commissioned next spring, is to be deployed at Maizuru.

As a result, five of the six Aegis warships will be deployed at MSDF bases along the Sea of Japan or near the East China Sea as part of Japan’s missile defense shield.

The defense system calls for Aegis warships to detect ballistic missiles using high-performance radar systems and shoot down these targets at altitudes of 200 km to 300 km.

The current Aegis warships are equipped with SM-2 interceptor missiles mainly designed to hit aircraft.

The MSDF is planning to upgrade them to SM-3 interceptors capable of hitting ballistic missiles at a far higher altitude.

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