Government to pick Lockheed Martin radar for missile defense system: ministry official

by Nobuhiro Kubo

Reuters

Japan has selected an advanced radar system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for its multibillion-dollar missile defense system, a Defense Ministry official with direct knowledge of the matter said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

The government plans to buy two Aegis Ashore batteries that it wants to deploy in 2023, to upgrade its missile defense system, in a move that could help ease trade friction with Washington and provide cutting-edge protection against the arsenals of North Korea and China.

It was reported last week that the candidates for the radar were Raytheon Co.’s SPY-6 and a version of the Lockheed Martin Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR).

The decision on the radar supplier means the government can add the purchase to a defense budget proposal slated for release in August, three sources with knowledge of the plan have said previously. They also spoke on condition on anonymity.

The two Aegis Ashore sites will likely cost at least twice as much as the government’s initial estimate of $2 billion, the sources said. U.S. President Donald Trump has urged Tokyo to buy more U.S. military equipment and other goods to help balance a trade deficit with Japan.

The country’s trade surplus with the United States in May fell 17.3 percent year-on-year to ¥340.7 billion ($3.07 billion), the lowest level since January 2013, as Japan increased imports of U.S. coal and aircraft.

The government’s latest budget proposal comes amid an easing of regional tensions after the June 12 summit in Singapore between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

At the meeting Kim reiterated a pledge to work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, although this fell short of the complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of nuclear weapons sought by Japan, the U.S. and other countries.

Trump agreed to halt joint drills with the South Korean military during the denuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang. Japanese military planners still see North Korea as an immediate danger, and they also view China’s growing military power as a long-term threat.

“North Korea needs to show it is making concrete steps to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, and it has yet to do so,” Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a news briefing on Tuesday.

During the briefing, Onodera said no decision had been reached yet on the radar system for Aegis Ashore.

The unnamed official said that Lockheed’s radar had been selected due to its search capabilities and because its life cycle cost would be less than the Raytheon system.

Lockheed and Raytheon said they had yet to be officially notified about the result of the radar bid.