WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- The vision of Junichiro Koizumi to create an anti-ballistic missile shield over Japan took a giant leap towards fulfillment Friday.
On that day, Japan's Air Self-defense Force announced that its first battery of U.S.-built Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3s was operational at the Iruma Air Base north of Tokyo to defend the Japanese capital, the Kyodo news agency reported.
Koizumi during his five years as Japans prime minister made the creation of a close U.S.-Japanese strategic alliance to jointly develop BMD defenses for his country the top national strategic priority. Since he left office in September, his handpicked successor Shinzo Abe has loyally pushed ahead with the same policy.
Kyodo noted that the PAC-3 battery deployment at Iruma in Saitama Prefecture was announced a year ahead of the previously announced date. The move was a dramatic example of how determined Abe remains to rush effective BMSD systems into place to defend Japan against potential threats, primarily from North Korea, as quickly as possible. Kyodo noted that the acceleration of Japanese deployment plans began under Koizumi after North Korea successfully test fired several intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Japan on July 4 last year.
Kyodo also noted that while the current Patriots are deployed as an integrated part of Japan's own armed forces, U.S. forces last October deployed PAC-3 missiles at the U.S. Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the main U.S. military base in the region. Each Patriot PAC-3 launcher can fire up to 16 missiles, the Japanese news agency said.
Tokyo is not betting on the Patriot alone. It has also purchased U.S.-built Standard Missile-3 interceptors to be fired from warships, and hopes top have its first warship armed with them operational by the end of this year. SM-3s are designed for higher level interception of incoming ballistic missiles, though not to intercept extremely fast flying intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Patriots are designed for low level close range interception.
Australia, Spain buy Aegis systems
Lockheed Martin announced Friday it had won a $260 million U.S. Navy contract to sell four Aegis Weapon Systems to Australia and Spain.
The systems will operate on three Australian Air Warfare Destroyers, or AWDs, and on one Spanish F-100-class frigate, the company said.
Lockheed described the equipment as "next-generation Aegis Weapon Systems -- among the first to include 100 percent commercial off-the-shelf hardware and a fully open architecture computing environment."
"Lockheed Martin will synchronize production of the systems for Australia and Spain with the U.S. Navy's Aegis modernization program, which calls for delivery of the first fully open architecture Aegis Weapon System to the USS Bunker Hill in 2008," the company said.
The latest contract is a modification to a June 2006 award of $85 million for Australia's AWD long lead material items. The modification covers the production phase for Aegis Weapon Systems for the three Australian destroyers and for Spain's fifth Aegis-equipped ship.
"Aegis Open Architecture will provide many advantages, including the opportunity to more easily integrate indigenous systems into the combat system and to reduce acquisition and certification risks and costs," said Orlando Carvalho, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's Surface/Sea- Based Missile Defense Systems business in Moorestown, N.J. "Aegis Open Architecture is already driving commonality across the United States' surface fleet, as we are directly leveraging and reusing it in combat system development associated with the Littoral Combat Ship and the Coast Guard's Deepwater programs."
"Currently, the Australian government is in the process of selecting the AWD ship design in support of final program approval. The Aegis Weapon Systems Lockheed Martin will produce through this contract will support equally both of the ship designs under evaluation. Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy also contracted Lockheed Martin to produce the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for the AWD in an identical manner, again supporting both ship designs," the statement said.
Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., welcomed the decision. "The fact that other allied nations with strong naval histories like Japan, Norway and South Korea are also purchasing the system shows Aegis has a good future. Locally, this contract will provide work for existing Lockheed Martin employees in Moorestown who design and build the Aegis equipment," he said.
Lockheed Martin noted that the Aegis Weapon System was "the foundation for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, the primary component of the sea-based element of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System."
"The Aegis Weapon System includes the SPY-1 radar, the Navy's most advanced computer-controlled radar system. When paired with the MK-41 VLS, it is capable of delivering missiles for every mission and threat environment in naval warfare," it said.
Lockheed Martin said the AWS was "currently deployed on 81 ships around the globe, with more than 25 additional ships planned. In addition to the United States, Spain and Australia, Aegis is the maritime weapon system of choice for Japan, South Korea and Norway."
Raytheon wins Navy missile contract
Raytheon Missile Systems has won a $53.5 million missile contract with the U.S. Navy, the Business Journal of Phoenix noted Wednesday.
BJP said the contract was for 111 Tomahawk composite capsule launching system capsules. "The Naval Air Systems Command, based in Patuxent River, Md., is the contractor, according to the U.S. Department of Defense announcement," the company's statement said.
Raytheon Missile Systems is based in Tucson and employs 11,000 workers. The unit reports annual revenue of $4.1 billion.