The Defense Ministry has newly estimated that two land-based missile batteries the nation aims to deploy could cost around ¥400 billion ($3.6 billion), double the initial quotation, according to a government source.
If the prices of interceptor missiles and other expenses are included, the total cost of the two Aegis Ashore units could rise to nearly ¥600 billion — raising questions about the necessity for such an expensive system as tensions ease on the Korean Peninsula.
The government is pushing to install the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore system in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures, aiming to bring them into operation in fiscal 2023. Two batteries are believed to be sufficient to cover Japan’s entire territory.
The estimate has ballooned as the ministry mulls introducing Lockheed Martin Corp.’s cutting-edge SSR radar as a key component of the missile shield system. The Lockheed radar has turned out to be more expensive than the system currently deployed on Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers, the source said Monday.
Costs for building facilities at host sites for the Aegis Ashore system are also expected to rise, while the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missiles co-developed by Japan and the United States are set to carry a price tag of around ¥4 billion each, further pushing up the total cost, the source said.
The government decided at a Cabinet meeting last December to introduce the land-based missile defense system. At the time Tokyo felt an increasing need to reinforce the nation’s missile shield after North Korea test-fired around 20 ballistic missiles last year, two of which flew over Japanese territory.
Since the historic U.S.-North Korea summit on June 12, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased. But the Defense Ministry says it will continue to seek the deployment of the Aegis Ashore system, saying that the threat posed by North Korea remains.
The plan has triggered concern among local residents of Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures as they fear that the missile shields, which will be deployed at stationary sites, could become new targets of terrorism. They also voiced worries that the system’s radar, which emits strong radio waves, could be harmful to human health.