Two weeks ago on Wednesday, November 16th, the Japanese Aegis Baseline 9 Integrated Air and Missile Defense Destroyers JDS Maya (DDG-179) and JDS Haguro (DDG-180) launched variants of the SM-3 Interceptor in a layered Ballistic Missile and Cruise Missile Defense exercise, designated JFTM-7. JDS Maya demonstrated the first Japanese deployment of the SM-3 BLK IIA ICBM capable interceptor. This success was followed by JDS Haguro simultaneous engaging of a ballistic missile with a SM-3 BLK 1B interceptor and cruise missile intercept with a SM-2-BLK IIIB interceptor. It demonstrated the Japanese capability to defeat any deployed active North Korean Missiles from any range. This would include cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles (SRBM), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM), intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The first historic Japanese intercept of its co-produced agreement with the United States – SM-3 Block IIA – which first proved it could intercept ICBMs in 2017 is a defining moment for the Defense of Japan. This US and Japanese deployed combat capability is on four Japanese Aegis Baseline 9 ships and 22 US Aegis Baseline 9 Ships with a co production of 12 SM-3 Block IIA interceptors annually that began with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 1999 between the United States and Japan. This Aegis Baseline 9 capability with SM-3 Block IIA interceptors will be part of the Defense of Guam to be operationally deployed by 2025.
Japan and the US both deploy Aegis baseline 9 capability with both Launch on Remote (using remote sensors) and Engage on Remote (using remote Interceptors) this will provide for increasingly larger “defended areas”. With Aegis Command and Decision (C&D) and current THAAD C2, full THAAD capabilities in sensors and interceptors deployed in South Korea and in Guam are integrated with Aegis BMD Ships. Adding to this BMD capability is ship based Cruise Missile Defense with SM-2s and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) on Aegis destroyers. These Integrated Air and Missile Defense weapons are launched from the versatile Vertical Launch System (MK 41 VLS) used in all Aegis and Aegis Ashore Systems.
This is a huge step forward for the concept of an allied sea-based hub and spoke missile defense in the Indo Pacific. With the three South Korean KDX III Aegis Baseline 9 air warfare destroyers and three Australia Hobart Class Aegis Baseline 8 ships this becomes a tremendous deterrent and defense of allied joint integrated missile defense with capacity, mobility and capability to negate North Korea’s missile threats in the region.