National

SDF readies drills to tighten response, ease concerns over North Korea missiles

Kyodo

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force will conduct nationwide drills to improve the readiness of its ballistic missile defense and allay public concerns over North Korea’s continued test-firing of missiles, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The exercises to mobilize and swiftly set up Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors will start Thursday involving 4th Air Defense Missile Group members based in Gifu Prefecture. They will practice deploying the system to the Komaki Air Base in neighboring Aichi Prefecture.

“It is extremely important to improve tactical skills in dealing with ballistic missiles amid the increasing severity of the security environment surrounding our country,” Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said at a news conference. “We also think it will help the public feel safe and secure.”

The ASDF has conducted such exercises regularly without making public announcements, according to ministry officials. But the ministry decided to announce the exercise time to bring a sense of reassurance, one official said.

Under the current multitier ballistic missile defense arrangements, Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors are intended to intercept missiles in the outer atmosphere. If they fail, the PAC-3 interceptors will be ready to shoot down the missiles.

So far, a total of four exercises involving three air defense missile groups are scheduled at Self-Defense Forces facilities through June 26. The ministry plans to hold more drills nationwide, including areas farther from SDF facilities, while making arrangements to conduct training with the U.S. military.

Each of the exercises is expected to involve about 20 to 30 people and about 10 vehicles, including a radar set, control station and launching station. No actual missile will be launched, the ministry officials said.

Public concern is growing over North Korea’s repeated test-firing of ballistic missiles, many of which have fallen in the Sea of Japan. Evacuation drills for residents to prepare for missile launches have also been held.