The Defense Ministry plans to develop a domestically made long-range anti-ship missile, apparently in response to advanced, longer-range air-defense missiles now in service with the Chinese Navy, according to sources.

Under the plan, the new missile will be an improved model of the ASM-3 supersonic air-to-ship cruise missile, whose development was completed in fiscal 2017. The aim is to deploy a standoff missile capable of attacking targets from outside the ranges of an opponent’s air-defense capabilities.

The ministry hopes to include related development expenditures in its budget request for fiscal 2020, the sources said Saturday.

Some critics consider the development of such standoff missiles problematic in terms of Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, claiming that it may lead to the country’s acquisition of weapons that give the Self-Defense Forces the ability to attack enemy bases.

But Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has said, “We need to have long-range systems in order to respond to circumstances while ensuring the safety of Self-Defense Forces members.”

The government included a policy to introduce long-range weapons in a new medium-term defense program adopted at a Cabinet meeting late last year.

The ASM-3, which flies at a speed of around Mach 3, was planned to be mounted on the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jets. But it has yet to be deployed because its range — about 200 kilometers (125 miles) — is too short.

The ministry aims to extend the range of the new missile to 400 kilometers or longer.

Among foreign-made long-range anti-ship and anti-surface missiles, the ministry has already decided to introduce the Norwegian-made JSM, with a range of about 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) and which will be mounted on new F-35 stealth fighters. Additionally, the U.S.-made JASSM and LRA, each having a range of some 900 kilometers (about 550 miles), will be mounted on F-15 fighters.

However, one drawback of these missiles is that they cannot fly faster than Mach 3.

The ministry is considering mounting the new missile on the successor model to the F-2 fighter jet, which is set to be retired from around 2035.

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