April 10 (UPI) -- The State Department approved the sale of anti-ballistic missiles to Japan, pending Congressional approval, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced.
The sale, announced Tuesday, includes up to 56 SM-3 Block IB interceptor missiles, with missile canisters, technical assistance and support at an estimated cost of $1.150 billion. Raytheon Missile Systems, of Tucson, Ariz., would be the prime contractor of the missiles, with BAE Systems of Minneapolis, Minn., designated as contractor on the missile canisters.
The missiles, designed to seek and destroy incoming short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, feature infrared seekers and an upgraded steering and propulsion capability that directs the missile toward incoming targets, according to Raytheon. The system is regarded as an essential component of the anti-missile system the United States is building in and around Europe.
"The proposed sale will provide Japan with increased ballistic missile defense capability to assist in defending the Japanese homeland and U.S. personnel stationed there," the DSCA, an agency of the Defense Department, said in a statement on Tuesday.
In light of the military progress of China and North Korea, Japan has been actively upgrading its own military equipment. In November, it was announced that that Japan is considering the purchase of an additional 100 F-35 fighter planes from the United States. The Japan Air Force currently has a fleet of 42 U.S.-made F-35 fighters. Some of the new jets, if purchased, would replace older F-15 jets.