Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
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Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#431】Belated Study of Capabilities to Attack Enemy Bases

Fumio Ota / 2017.04.06 (Thu)


April 3, 2017

     In response to progress in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile developments, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party recommended the government to study Japan’s possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases on March 30. The recommendation falls short of asking the government to possess such capabilities. Several years will pass before the government decides Japan should possess the capabilities. Furthermore, more than 10 years will be required for developing the capabilities. This is because both missile detection and attack capabilities will have to be developed from nothing.
     However, North Korea (and China) may be developing nuclear weapons and missiles at a far faster pace. I would say it is too belated for Japan to study now the possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases.

Over 10 years required to develop detection capabilities
     North Korea fired a solid-fuel ballistic missile in February and launched multiple ballistic missiles simultaneously after nighttime fuel injection on March 6, both from mobile launchers. Indications are that it has become very difficult for optical and/or radar satellites to detect missile launch in advance.
     Therefore, infrared reconnaissance satellites to detect missile firing heat sources may have to find ballistic missile launch first. Japan has no such satellites. Given that a service life is limited to some five years for such satellite in a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers above the equator, multiple satellites will be required to establish constant reconnaissance. More than 10 years will be required to develop such satellites and establish a constant reconnaissance posture.
     For comparison, Japan established an intelligence satellite posture including two optical and as many radar satellites in 2013, 15 years after Japan began to consider the need for intelligence satellites in 1998 when a North Korean ballistic missile flew over Japan.

No concern heard on Japan’s possession of attack capabilities
     Weapons for attacking enemy bases may include airborne bombs and missiles. But realistic options will be a long-range cruise missile or Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) system under development in the United States. Again, more than 10 years will be required before making them operational.
     In response to the North Korean ballistic missile’s flight over Japan in 1998, Japan considered the joint development of ballistic missile defense system with the United States in 2003. The SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missile subject to the joint development was successfully tested on February 28 this year at last. It will take several more years for the missile to be operational, meaning that over 15 years are required for developing and deploying the interceptor. For your information, China has successfully tested hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) as part of the CPGS system six times, outdoing the United States.
     Not only leftists but some conservatives in Japan have opposed Japan’s possible possession of enemy base attack capabilities, being concerned that the present roles and missions sharing arrangements under which Japan serves as shield with the United States acting as pike. However, I would like to point out that many American Generals and Admirals with whom I have contacted have indicated approval on Japan’s possession of offensive capabilities. I can find no one among these officers who reiterates past argument that the United States is a “cap of a bottle” to prevent Japan’s militarization.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.