Japan is considering deploying about two additional Aegis destroyers as an alternative after it abandoned plans to introduce the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system, government and ruling coalition sources said Saturday.
The proposal also calls for Ground Self-Defense Force personnel to take on some of the duties of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in order to free up sailors for the new ships as the MSDF grapples with a shortage of manpower, the sources said.
Japan will have eight Aegis ships in service by the March 31 end of fiscal 2020, according to the Defense Ministry’s plan. Deploying about two more is seen to be a realistic option, given the need to construct a system capable of protecting the Japanese archipelago at all times and costs involved.
The biggest obstacle to the proposal is the fact that some 300 crew members are needed for each Aegis vessel. The MSDF would need to redistribute personnel from other destroyers, a major challenge considering that it is already struggling to recruit members.
The government is considering resolving the issue by utilizing GSDF members who were supposed to be tasked with operating the Aegis Ashore system.
The proposal calls for such personnel to fill in for such land-based duties such as security and upkeep of bases.
A similar case can be found in the SDF’s antipiracy mission off the coast of Somalia, in which GSDF personnel are in charge of refueling and security for MSDF troops in Djibouti.
However, locations for the deployment of Aegis ships can be limited in times of bad weather.
Some in the MSDF are skeptical of the plan. One senior MSDF member said that “the problem will not be solved easily by increasing ships.”
The government is also considering the deployment of the Aegis Ashore system on a megafloat, a huge floating structure that can be used as an offshore base. However, megafloats are vulnerable to tsunami and attacks by torpedoes.