• Kyodo

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The Maritime Self-Defense Force launched its sixth Aegis destroyer at a Wednesday ceremony in a dockyard in Nagasaki as part of Japan’s plan to add sea-borne antimissile capabilities.

The Ashigara, built at a cost of 140 billion yen, will be fitted with the U.S.-developed sea-based Standard Missile-3 antimissile system after it goes into service in spring 2008.

The Ashigara’s displacement is 7,700 tons, the same as the Atago, which is scheduled to go into service next spring. Four other MSDF Aegis destroyers currently in service — the Kongou, Choukai, Myoukou and Kirishima — are in the 7,250-ton class.

The government plans to fit the six Aegis destroyers with the SM-3s, which are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles. The Ashigara will be refit after other others are.

The launch ceremony of the Ashigara was held at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Nagasaki shipyard.

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