Ground design

Hitting China at its heart, the US advocates a 1,000 km long-range missile for Japan to fight a belligerent Beijing

The growing polarization between the United States and its allies on the one hand and the People’s Republic of China on the other has triggered a massive shift in military strategies. In what could be a call for improved regional firepower, the US Navy commander says long-strike capability is the way to go.

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According to Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, who commands US Marines in the Indo-Pacific region, long-range attack capabilities are essential for the US and Japan to deter hostile military activity in the Western Pacific. He said that if it was up to Japan to acquire long-range weapons, he would support it.

Rudder made the comments against the backdrop of China ramping up its naval buildup and trying to project power outside of its traditional operational areas in the East and South China Seas. It also made rapid inroads into the Pacific, near Australian and American territories.

In May 2022, the PLA Navy’s Liaoning Carrier Battle Group transited the Miyako Strait near Japan to conduct exercises in the Western Pacific region, as reported by EurAsian Times.

Liaoning Aircraft Carrier Battle Group exercising in the Western Pacific in May 2022 (via Twitter)

The Indo Pacific Marine Corp Commander’s comments align with the 2022 edition of the Marine Corp Force Design 2030 which reads: “Future adversaries employ a long-range precision anti-surface and air defense system and ground-based – integrated with air, maritime, cyberspace, and space strike capabilities – to prevent forces from accessing the conflict zone.

China has a well-established anti-access/area denial system, which requires long-range weapons along its coastline and the use of ultra-long-range missiles.

Japanese missiles could hit ships or planes of an invading force after closing in on Japanese shores, but not a missile base on Chinese or North Korean soil that was firing on Japan, as has been reported. noted EurAsian Times.

The United States has already acknowledged in a Congressional research report that China has the largest navy in the world in terms of fleet size. However, it also has anti-ship missiles like the DF-21 and long-range missiles that could hit US assets in the Pacific.

As tensions steadily rise between China and Taiwan, there are fears that an armed conflict is looming on the horizon. Any dispute between the two separate states would drag Japan into its fold due to its geographical proximity to Taiwan.

The United States, for its part, would step in as Biden promised during his Asian tour in May. According to Department of Defense data, the United States has about 56,000 active duty personnel in Japan. The US 7th Fleet which conducts freedom of navigation operations in contested seas near China is also based in Japan.

The case of long-range missiles

As part of a drill simulating a blockade of Taiwan last month, the PLA fired five missiles which landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Beijing retaliated after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island claimed by China. This sparked the need for long-range weapons for the Japan Self-Defense Force.

In an interview with Nikkei Asia, the Indo-Pacific Navy Commander said the use of US naval land strike missiles, acting in concert with Japanese-made Type 12 surface-to-ship cruise missile units, has allowed US troops to conduct sea interdiction operations.

That being said, it is pertinent to mention that Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force and the US military recently held joint military exercises, “Orient Shield”, to practice defending the remote southwestern island. from Japan, Amami Oshima. Japanese Type 12 anti-ship missiles and the American-made HIMARS took part in the exercises.

Japanese surface-to-ship missiles can currently travel over 100 kilometers, but there are plans to increase their range to over 1,000 kilometers, bringing the coasts of China and North Korea within reach. Rudder said he would encourage Tokyo’s efforts to build long-range missiles.

Type 12 surface-to-ship missile - Wikipedia
Type 12 surface-to-ship missile – Wikipedia

These comments from the commander of the Indo-Pacific Marine Corp come a day after Japan’s Defense Ministry announced plans to start producing longer-range missiles and researching hypersonic missile systems to combat the escalation of regional tensions.

The ministry said it intended to create two different types of “ranged” missiles capable of launching long-range attacks. Ranged missiles can be launched from a distance, allowing attacking personnel to flee the impact area or avoid defensive fire.

The offense as a defense against China

An improved Type 12 surface-to-ship missile (mentioned by Rudder) is one of the longer range missiles mentioned in the MoD proposal. The government has claimed that versions that could be launched from ships or aircraft are also being developed.

On August 2, it was revealed that the Japanese Ministry of Defense was accelerating the deployment of the upgraded version of the Type 12 surface-to-ship missile (SSM) currently under development.

Initially, the Type 12 SSM had a range of 200 kilometers. The new improved model aims to increase the range to at least 900 kilometers and eventually to 1,200 kilometers. The missile’s design was also changed to reduce its radar cross section (RCS) and increase its stealth.

Another missile planned for mass production is a hovering hypervelocity projectile (HGVP). It is more agile than other missiles, but the technology is still in its infancy. While China already has a hypersonic weapon, North Korea has reportedly developed one.

In addition to these two weapons, Washington and Tokyo are negotiating the deployment of an anti-ship missile unit to Japan by around 2027.

The United States creates Marine Littoral Regiments (MLR) with anti-ship missile squadrons. The Marines initially established a regiment in Hawaii and intended to develop other such units throughout the Indo-Pacific. A naval strike missile would potentially form a central element of the MLR.

Dmitry Shulgin on Twitter: "The US Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary #Ship #Interdiction System (#NMESIS) successfully hit its target in support of Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, during Large Scale Exercise 21 (#LSE 21) August
NMESIS (via Twitter)

During its 2021 large-scale exercise in the Hawaiian Islands, held August 3-16, the USMC launched a road-mobile weapon system. The Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) is an Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle modified to carry tandem launchers for naval strike missiles manufactured by Raytheon and is capable of destroying any naval vessel.

Rudder further stressed the importance for Japan to step up its intelligence gathering alongside the United States. The ability of Tokyo and Washington to locate Chinese warships and fighters will impact any potential conflict with Beijing.