A Lockheed Martin Corp. executive said Tuesday its SPY-7 radar was "fully capable" of being installed on Japan's new naval vessels, and expressed confidence that there was no alternative, despite calls for a review of the current plan after the country scrapped a land-based Aegis missile defense system earlier this year.
"We are 100% confident," said Tom Rowden, vice president responsible for the U.S. company's overseas strategy and business development, in an online interview. Rowden stressed that the company has been providing radar systems to Japan for over 30 years.
His remarks came after some lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party called for a review of the plan, as the Defense Ministry is considering building two Aegis-equipped ships and examining three sea-based options in place of the previously planned land-based system, which was conceived with the interception of missiles from North Korea in mind.
Citing safety and technical reasons, Japan's government decided in June to give up on deploying the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore land-based system, but it plans to go ahead with adopting SPY-7 to avoid cancellation fees.
In 2018, the Defense Ministry selected Lockheed Martin's Aegis radar technology after determining that it was superior to another supplied by Raytheon Technologies Corp.
However, given that use of a sea-based option is now more likely, some LDP lawmakers have raised concern that interoperability between Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy may be undermined. The U.S. Navy decided in 2013 to use SPY-6, another Aegis radar system supplied by Raytheon Technologies.
A group of LDP lawmakers said in a proposal handed to Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi in October that Japan would have to pay the development and repair costs on its own for SPY-7, whereas if the country uses SPY-6 it will be able to tap the expertise of the U.S. Navy.
Rowden countered that "the beauty of SPY-7 is that it operates with the Aegis combat system," which is developed by Lockheed Martin.
"As a result of that, the interoperability — which is dependent upon the combat system — is fully guaranteed," he said, adding that the radar's other advantages include its greater detection range and ability to function even during maintenance.
In a recent interview with Kyodo News, Scott Spence, a director at a Raytheon Technologies unit, said that Japan could reconsider its radar selection.
"I think things may have changed over the last couple of years, and folks may need to reconsider things based on the world situation and the threats that have changed since previous decisions were made," Spence said.
"Having a common set of hardware and capabilities between the navies is really important to the collaboration," he said. "It provides that level of training and maintenance and tactics that those naval officers can share."
Regarding Aegis ships, Japan is seeking to establish a comprehensive air and missile defense capability, designed to protect not only against ballistic missiles — the main purpose of the scrapped land-based system — but to also counter cruise missiles and fighter jets.
Spence emphasized that the SPY-6 radar, developed specifically for the U.S. Navy, can simultaneously detect several threats, such as fighters, cruise missiles and incoming ballistic missiles.
He claimed the rival company's radar was a derivative of a ballistic missile defense system, which is currently installed in Alaska but not yet in operation.
Rowden, however, rejected that assertion, saying the SPY-7 system will be better at detecting different types of threats at the same time and not only ballistic missiles.
He added that the radar's installation on five Spanish and 15 Canadian warships will lead to an expansion of the supply chain and help lower costs.
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