Japan mulling joint missile-defense facility with U.S. in Nagasaki
The candidate site for the facility is an area to be reclaimed off the coast of where the U.S. military's Hariojima ammunition depot is located in Sasebo, the source told Kyodo News.
While it is known that Japan and the United States are working on building a joint information network to prepare for the full-fledged operation of the ballistic missile defense system, it is the first revelation of a plan for a weaponry-related joint facility.
The SM-3, which the U.S. Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force plan to deploy on Aegis warships, is a U.S.-made missile capable of intercepting incoming ballistic missiles in space at altitudes of 200 to 300 kilometers.
The United States and Japan are conducting joint development of the next generation SM-3, which will be modified to a three-stage missile to enable it to reach altitudes 10 times or higher than the conventional model.
A senior MSDF official said advanced facility and technology are needed to inspect and maintain the new SM-3 due to the complexity of the device for sending and receiving data.
According to the source, the agency is considering joint use of the facility and equipment with the United States, but each country will conduct the actual inspection and maintenance of its own missiles.
The MSDF members would be able to ask for technical guidance from the U.S. military in the event they encounter problems in the inspection and maintenance process, making it possible to cut costs, the source said.
The two countries envisage a two-stage missile interception method to deal with an attack. First, Aegis vessels from both countries would try to intercept an incoming missile in space launching SM-3 missiles.
If unsuccessful, they would employ the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in their final phase after they have reentered the atmosphere.
Japan and the United States have been developing the upgraded version of the SM-3 interceptor in a joint program that began after North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 missile, part of which flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific Ocean, in August 1998.