National

Japan, U.S. to hold enhanced tabletop exercise on missile defense

Kyodo

Japan and the United States will hold a tabletop exercise for ballistic missile defense on a larger scale than before, in their latest show of unity against North Korea, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The annual exercise, aimed at enhancing tactical skills for ballistic missile defense, was previously conducted by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy. But the latest exercise from Friday to Feb. 23 will also include the Japanese and U.S. air forces as well as the U.S. Marine Corps.

“It’s going to be closer to actual operations,” Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, the top uniformed officer of the Self-Defense Forces, said at a press conference, emphasizing the importance of the drill amid North Korea’s repeated test-firing of ballistic missiles.

In the exercise, Japan and the United States will connect their networks and confirm the process of jointly detecting, tracking and intercepting hypothetical missiles.

They will also conduct a simulated exercise for other air defense operations involving their fighter jets, the Japanese ministry said.

The exercise will be led by Vice Adm. Kazuki Yamashita, commander in chief of the Self Defense Fleet, and the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, according to the Japanese ministry.

Under Japan’s current antimissile system, MSDF Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors are tasked with destroying missiles in the outer atmosphere. If they fail, the Air Self-Defense Force’s ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors are the next line of defense against missile attack.