TOKYO, July 7 (UPI) -- Japan is eyeing the latest Lockheed Martin defense missile after last week's launches by North Korea of R-17 and Rodong rockets, according to the Mainichi Daily newspaper.
The report does not name the Japanese sources, but aviation and military media believe it was a government-authorized leak to the newspaper.
The leak was to counter North Korea's weekend launch of the hard-line communist regime's aging medium-range Soviet-era Scud R-17 missiles and Rodongs, a longer-range variant of later model Scuds. Seven rockets were reported to have been tested fired with ranges of between 300 and 600 miles.
Immediately after the launch Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called it an extremely provocative action that Japan can never overlook. U.S. President Barack Obama called on North Korea to be punished for its actions. But an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Sunday ended with no agreement on a response to North Korea's launch.
The Mainichi report said that Japan is considering the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. It would be in addition to the country's recently upgraded missile defenses, which include the PAC-3 system, both made by Lockheed Martin.
Patriot Advanced Capability is an upgrade of the original MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile made by Raytheon beginning in the late 1970s. It was initially an anti-aircraft defense system that replaced the Nike Hercules missiles.
However, Raytheon's significant hardware and software upgrades leading to the PAC-2 version over the years have made it a more formidable and highly mobile anti-ballistic missile system.
The range of the PAC-3 version, by Lockheed Martin, is around 12 miles, while the THAAD system is thought to be up to 60 miles. PAC-3 is a hit-to-kill weapon, but it contains a high-explosive fragmentation warhead to improve the kill probability against targets such as aircraft or cruise missiles.
Lockheed Martin went on to develop the THAAD system in 2007, thanks to a $619 million contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, with deployment expected in the second half of this year. THAAD relies solely on hit-to-kill technology, which requires physical contact with no detonation for destruction of incoming missiles.
Also, Lockheed Martin has said THAAD is the only anti-ballistic missile system that operates at both atmospheric and near-space levels.
Earlier this month Japan initiated a new $935 million project called the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment to improve the country's automatic air warning and defense control system including protection from ballistic missile attack using PAC-3 systems. The new network is linked to U.S. communications satellites, allowing the United States and Japan to share data.
A year ago Japan's Air Self Defense Force began relocating the headquarters of its Air Defense Command to the U.S. base in Yokota, home to the U.S. Air Force's 374th Airlift Wing. The wing provides airlift support to all U.S. Department of Defense agencies in the Pacific.