Japan seeks new submarine to carry long-range missiles

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers simulate the use of Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles during a capabilities demonstration at Camp Kisarazu, Japan, on June 16, 2022. The Japanese government is considering several missiles, including the Type 12 , to be used on a new submarine being considered for development. (Haley Fourmet Gustavsen/U.S. Marine Corps)

TOKYO – Steps are being taken to build a submarine to examine the technical problems faced in deploying those capable of firing long-range missiles, Japanese government sources said.

The development plan will be included in the National Defense Program Guidelines to be reviewed at the end of the year.

If development moves forward for actual deployment, the Tomahawk cruise missiles that the government has approached the US government to purchase will be an option for the ship.

The government is considering possessing defensive-minded counter-attack capabilities to destroy facilities such as the enemy’s missile launch site.

The government plans to use the modified version of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles, as well as potential Tomahawk missiles as primary long-range missiles for the purpose.

The government had in mind ground vehicles, surface ships, and aircraft as launch equipment for such missiles. However, it is relatively easy for an enemy to detect where long-range missiles are deployed using such equipment. Therefore, the government has decided to add submarines as an option.

Construction of the submarine will begin in fiscal year 2024 and is expected to take several years. Regarding launch methods, vertical firing from the ship’s body and horizontal firing from a torpedo tube will be studied.

Based on the trial operation of the submarine, the government will determine within 10 years whether to introduce such a vessel for actual defense operations.

Currently, the submarines of the Maritime Self-Defense Force are mainly equipped with torpedoes and short-range anti-ship missiles.

The latest Taigei-class submarines are equipped with surface-to-surface/anti-ship dual-use missiles. But the range of those missiles is only about 250 kilometers. Tomahawks can be fired from submarines and have a range of more than 1,250 kilometers.

All five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom) possess submarines capable of firing long-range surface-to-surface missiles. South Korea also deploys submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles.

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