Japan is set to be the first country after the United States to field the Standard Missile 6 as part of a proposed $450 million arms package, according to a State Department notification to Congress.
According to the Thursday notification, Japan was conditionally approved to buy up to 32 of the Raytheon-built SM-6 Block Is, pending congressional approval.
“The proposed sale will improve Japan’s Air Defense and Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities against potential adversaries in the region. It will also provide the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance with the latest and most advanced capabilities, reducing Japan’s reliance on U.S. Forces for the defense of Japan and further improving U.S.-Japan military interoperability. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces,” reads the notification.
The notification follows a 2017 decision from the Pentagon that conditionally approved Japan, South Korea and Australia to buy the missiles, reported USNI News at the time.
All three countries field guided-missile warships that are outfitted with Baseline 9 of the Aegis Combat System. Baseline 9 allows the ships to input targeting information into the SM-6 from another ship or aircraft rather than a ship’s own sensors.
The SM-6 features three different modes – anti-air warfare, anti-surface and a limited ballistic missile defense capability – but not all the features may be available to all three countries, USNI News understands.
In particular, the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency have done several tests to prove the missile’s effectiveness against ballistic missiles in the terminal phase.
Last year, the MDA’s program executive officer for Aegis ballistic missile defense at the time, Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, called the SM-6 “our leading defense capability for hypersonic missile defense.”
Japanese destroyers also field the SM-3 designed for ballistic missile defense. Earlier this year, Japan indicated it would build two 20,000 warships designed specifically for ballistic missile defense missions, USNI News reported last month.