The Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is making moves to enhance its return on investment in F-35 fighters by equipping the aircraft with Joint Strike Missiles designed by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence Systems, the South China Morning Post reported.
“Japan has never previously had anything like this,” defense analyst Lance Gatling of Nexial Research Inc. told the news outlet on Tuesday.
The F-35 can maintain its stealth profile while carrying the weapons, which allows pilots to soar “much closer to targets” when they launch the missiles, Gatling added.
As a self-defense outfit, the JSDF has been reluctant to procure offensive weapons capability, but Tokyo’s posture is shifting as potential regional threats loom on the Korean Peninsula and in the South and East China Seas. Upgrading strike capabilities for the F-35 is a natural decision for policymakers in light of such developments, Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported on June 27.
Japan’s constitution doesn’t prevent the JSDF from targeting and firing at foreign military assets, Tokyo’s government has said according to the Post. Nevertheless, Japan’s increasingly militaristic posture is unlikely to go unnoticed by Pyongyang, which worries about an imperialist Japan regaining strength and preparing for invasion with US and South Korea forces.
Beijing is also likely to question Japan’s motives for obtaining the deadly weapons. As Gatling points out, however, it’s unlikely Japan would use the missiles to target China’s mainland.
Kongsberg designed the Joint Strike Missiles as “a modern weapon system for [Norway’s] new [F-35] aircraft,” the company says on its website. The missile can navigate via modalities including GPS and inertial and terrain reference guidance systems for anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and Naval Fire Support (NFS) missions, the weapons maker said. The missile can hit targets up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.