The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) is planning to equip its F-2 fighter jets with a new anti-ship missile named XASM-3, now under development, from next fiscal year, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
According to the sources cited in the report, Japanese Government will allocate several hundred millions of yen in a budgetary request for fiscal 2018 to mass produce the missile, which is currently under development.
The new missile will be the first supersonic air-to-ship type to be made in the country. The missile reportedly has a maximum speed of Mach 3 which is three times faster than Type 93 missile it is replacing. The domestically built type 80 and type 93 anti-ship missiles, which are currently in use, can both reach near-supersonic speeds.
The report claimed that the air-to-ship missile will be difficult to intercepts since it can fly at a low altitude close to the water surface at high speed to easily evade radar detection. Additionally, the missile will have a longer range than the type 93, which travels less than 200 kilometers.
The Defense Ministry will test-fire the new air-to-ship missile against a retired destroyer. If it proves to have high performance, the ministry will gradually equip F-2 fighters deployed to units in western Japan with the missile.
Additional specifics of the missile under development were not disclosed.
“The introduction of the new missile is aimed at keeping the Chinese Navy — which has been taking high-handed action in the East China Sea and other places — in check,” the newspaper noted.
The ministry is hastening efforts to improve the performance of its defense equipment to counter China, which is building up its maritime capacity. Tensions between Japan and China are high over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea and Beijing’s military posture in the Asia-Pacific region.
The F-2 fighter, developed jointly by Japan and the United States, is scheduled to be used as the JASDF’s main fighter aircraft until around the 2030s. If the aircraft is equipped with the new missile, its attack capability is expected to be boosted. The JASDF operates around 90 F-2 fighters.