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Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to acquire by March 2022 standoff missiles with a range of about 500 kilometers that can attack targets from outside the ranges of enemy missiles, according to sources.

The acquisition is in line with the medium-term defense buildup program for fiscal 2019-2023.

The new standoff missiles, expected to have the longest range among all the Self-Defense Forces’ current systems, will be mounted on F-35 cutting-edge stealth fighters, the sources said.

Since scrapping its plan to deploy Aegis Ashore land-based interceptor missile batteries earlier this year, the government has held active discussions on possible deterrents to prevent attacks with ballistic missiles, including acquiring the capability to strike enemy bases.

According to the ministry and other sources, Japan plans to acquire Norway’s JSM anti-surface and anti-ship missiles. Development has been completed, with delivery slated for mid-March 2022.

The JSM can be mounted inside the body of the F-35, enabling anti-surface and anti-ship attacks that make good use of the aircraft’s stealth capabilities.

The ministry is also considering the use of U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp.’s LRASM or JASSM missiles, with a range of about 900 kilometers, on ASDF F-15 fighter jets.

The U.S. military has test-fired JASSMs using strategic bombers, while development of the LRASM for installation in Aegis vessels is underway.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to introduce standoff missiles despite having not held proper discussions on whether possessing them is consistent with Japan’s defense-only security policy under the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9.

ASDF fighter jets flying out of the bases of Chitose, Misawa, Komatsu, Tsuiki or Naha will be able to fire missiles capable of reaching North Korea, China or Russia.

The next administration needs to give the public adequate explanations about whether longer-range missiles are within the scope of the minimum necessary capacity needed for self-defense in line with the Constitution, analysts have said.

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