The Defense Ministry is poised to build two new Aegis destroyers in place of an abandoned plan to introduce the Aegis Ashore ground-based ballistic missile defense system, sources have said.

A total of some 500 additional Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel will be secured in line with the introduction of the two new vessels, according to sources with knowledge of the matter, while the ministry will improve the work environment for crew members at a time when securing and maintaining personnel for long-term maritime missions is a challenge.

The two new destroyers, for each of which some 250 crew members will be secured, will go into service with eight other Aegis ships already scheduled for deployment. The ministry will hasten work to fix details of the plan in order to seek necessary funds under the government’s fiscal 2021 budget, to be compiled next month.

As part of measures to secure crew members, the ministry will raise the retirement age for Self-Defense Forces members. It has already begun preparations to raise the retirement age range for officers with the ranks up to and including captain from 53-56 to 55-58 by fiscal 2028.

This measure is expected to enable about 2,000 veteran SDF officers to remain on active duty, while relatively young officers can be deployed for missions on the new destroyers on a priority basis, according to the sources.

To improve work conditions, a system set to be adopted for a state-of-the-art small destroyer, to be commissioned in fiscal 2022, will be considered for introduction for the new Aegis destroyers, the sources said. Under the system, some 90 personnel will be put on duty per vessel in rotation, allowing other members to do training onshore or rest.

In fiscal 2017, the ministry started to make Wi-Fi available aboard Aegis vessels, allowing personnel to contact family members and friends using their own smartphones.

The new Aegis destroyers will likely be equipped with Wi-Fi as well, the sources said. Previously, officers on duty aboard Aegis ships were only allowed to use email via shared computers when interacting with people not aboard the ships.

The ministry will also consider actively assigning female officers to Aegis destroyer missions, according to the sources.

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