Japan and South Korea stocking up on US-made missiles

The US State Department has approved a swathe of requests for advanced air- and ship-launched missiles for its East Asian allies Japan and South Korea under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 14 November that South Korea’s request to buy up to 38 Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) Block I missiles, Mk 21 Vertical Launch System (VLS) canisters and other associated equipment and support – worth approximately US$650 million – has been approved.

The SM-6 is developed by RTX for long-range defence against aircraft, anti-ship cruise missiles and supports terminal ballistic missile defence. It can also be used for offensive purposes as an anti-ship missile.

South Korea will use the SM-6s to equip the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN) Aegis guided missile destroyers, which serve as a countermeasure against North Korea’s ballistic and cruise missile arsenal.

The DSCA announced the following day that Seoul’s request for 42 Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ air-to-air missiles and associated equipment and support at an estimated cost of US$52 million has also been approved.

Meanwhile, the DSCA announced on 17 November that the US State Department has approved a possible deal for up to 200 Block IV and 200 Block V Tomahawk missiles and associated control and support equipment to Japan worth approximately US$2.35 billion.

“The proposed sale will improve Japan’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing a long-range, conventional surface-to-surface (SSM) missile with significant stand-off range that can neutralize growing threats. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces,” said the DSCA in its statement.

The DSCA announcement follows the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) statement that it intended to accelerate efforts to acquire selected stand-off weapons, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, in response to deteriorating security conditions in the region.

Besides acquiring US-made missiles, both East Asian countries have embarked on indigenous stand-off missile development programmes. For example, Japan is developing an improved version of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Type 12 SSM with a maximum range of up to 1,000 km, a significant increase from the current model’s 200 km range.

South Korea is developing new and more capable variants of its Hyunmoo missile family, with the latest Hyunmoo V ballistic missile reportedly capable of engaging threats at distances of between 300 km and 3,000 km depending on the size of its payload.

by Jr Ng