Japanese government inches toward own early warning satellite

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The Japanese government is slowly moving towards a decision to launch its own early warning ballistic missile defense satellite, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Tokyo newspaper said it had received access to a draft plan for ballistic missile defense drawn up by the secretariat of the Japanese government's headquarters for space development strategy. The report calls for an assessment on the value of deploying an early warning satellite that could monitor any potentially hostile missile launch.


In addition, the draft plan recommends carrying out a feasibility study on launching more civilian comsats -- communications satellites.

The plan also suggests Japan should start building smaller short-range and medium-range missiles for its Defense Forces, in addition to the bigger H-2A missiles currently in use.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said this language may be an indirect way of pushing through approval to build the GX missile that has become a matter of some controversy. Old-fashioned bureaucrats who are opposed to Prime Minister Taro Aso's drive to develop a military space capability for Japan have opposed the GX project, and they managed to get the Space Activities Commission of the nation's Education Ministry, a stronghold for the old, cautious, pure research, non-military tradition in Japanese official space policymaking, to take a position opposing GX development.


"While many question the need to go ahead with the GX development project, (this plan) is tantamount to approving it," one official told the newspaper.

However, the draft plan looks set to be smoothly approved and then implemented as national policy within the national budget for Fiscal Year 2009. The Yomiuri Shimbun said that at a meeting of the space development strategy secretariat Tuesday, it sent the draft plan on to be finally agreed upon at a second meeting to be held Nov. 27.

Raytheon wins new U.S. Navy SM-2 contract

Raytheon announced Monday it has won a $422 million U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command production contract to manufacture Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA and Block IIIB missiles for the U.S. Navy, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Raytheon said the SM-2 utilized dual-mode infrared and radio frequency guidance to neutralize countermeasures on its targets, including advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. The company said the SM-2 had already "demonstrated success against supersonic, sea-skimming missiles during high-G -- gravity force -- maneuvers."

"The flexibility and reliability of the SM-2 are unmatched, and it has the longest range of any naval air defense missile in the world," said Ron Shields, Raytheon Missile Systems Standard Missile program director. "That's why navies around the world continue to select it as their missile of choice for fleet air defense coverage."


The venerable SM-2 has functioned as the U.S. Navy's main surface-to-air fleet defense missile system for more than 30 years. It has been upgraded to face the new generation of Russian- and Chinese-built anti-ship cruise missiles that can fly at speeds of more than Mach 2.5. The most recent variants of the SM-2 have been equipped with upgraded guidance software.

"The SM-2 continues to evolve to meet the needs of the U.S. Navy and allied navies," said Kirk Johnson, the U.S. Navy's Standard Missile program manager. "This weapon system will help us counter the expanding array of threats the U.S. Navy faces in the world today."

U.S. Navy scores 1 out of 2 in BMD tests

The U.S. Navy went one for two in a ballistic missile defense exercise using Standard Missile-3s and Aegis-equipped warships in the Pacific Ocean Saturday.

Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, said the maneuvers, known as Fleet Exercise Pacific Blitz, were the first 3rd Fleet live-test exercise that used the SM-3 against a ballistic missile target. The 3rd Fleet has its headquarters in San Diego.

In the exercise, two Aegis-equipped destroyers, the USS Paul Hamilton -- DDG 60 -- and the USS Hopper -- DDG 70 -- launched SM-3 missiles at different target missiles. The Paul Hamilton's SM-3 hit and destroyed its target. However, when the USS Hopper launched a second SM-3 against a second target missile, it missed. "Extensive analysis of the flight mission will be used to improve the deployed Aegis BMD system," the 3rd Fleet said.


The failure of the second test highlighted the uncertainties involved with even the most reliable and mature technology systems in ballistic missile defense. Following the mixed results, the Aegis system still enjoys an impressive 16 hits on target missiles in its last 19 live fire tests.

The Navy tried to put its most optimistic interpretation on the results.

"The successful engagement of ballistic missile targets from ships at sea is extraordinary," Locklear said. "Pacific Blitz highlights the successful transition from developmental test flights to operational fleet execution and demonstrates the viability of the Maritime BMD Concept of Operations."

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