Why did Japan’s “game-changing” ASM-3 missile die prematurely?

Around 2008, international media said that Japan’s ASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missile would be the enemy of the Chinese Navy. But with China’s too strong investment, the ASM-3 missile has quickly become obsolete.

In 2008, Japan successfully developed the ASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missile. The Japanese media said that the ASM-3 will become an “invincible enemy” against the Chinese navy. Then more than ten years later, when the Chinese Navy has grown tremendously and develop advanced air defense and missile countermeasure systems and make ASM-3 useless against Chinese navy ships.

The website “Japanese In Depth” on September 1 said that the ASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missile, developed by Japan over the past ten years, is about to be abandoned by the Self-Defense Force; because it may not be able to penetrate the Chinese naval air defense system.

According to reports, as early as 2003, the ASM-3 missile was officially put on the development agenda of the Japanese Defense Agency. This anti-ship missile, which can be equipped with Japanese F-2 and F-15J fighter jets, has a maximum speed of Mach 3 and a range of about 200 kilometers. These indicators were considered quite advanced at the time. But the problem is that the relevant development work has been delayed until 2018 before the completion of the basic ASM-3 anti-ship missile test project.

ASM-3 anti ship missile
ASM-3 anti ship missile

However, times have changed with the Chinese Navy, which is equipped with a large number of 052C and 052D air defense destroyers, and even has two aircraft carriers, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force believes that the 200-kilometer range of the ASM-3 missile is too short and may not be able to get close. The PLA’s maritime defense circle composed of carrier aircraft and various regional air defense missiles, therefore refused to purchase ASM-3 missiles, and the project was temporarily suspended. It was not until December 2019 that the Japanese Ministry of Defense injected US$96.1 million for the project, considering the continued expansion of the Chinese navy, to develop an improved ASM-3 supersonic speed with a range of 400 kilometers Anti-ship missiles.

The Air Self-Defense Force recently announced that it will cancel the integration of the US-made LRASM long-range anti-ship missile, due to cost issues in the F-15J fighter upgrade project; and instead, is buying domestically produced anti-ship missiles.

According to the reports, in order to promote the domestic defense industry, the F-15J should have been equipped with ASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missiles; but the Japanese Ministry of Defense listed only 12 types of subsonic anti-ship missiles, in the related procurement list.

This unusual approach would have explained the problem; besides, the attitude of the Maritime Self-Defense Force is even more negative. Normally, countries develop only one basic type of missile, then develop ship-based, air- and land-based versions; such as the US Harpoon anti-ship missile for example. Previously, Japan was no exception, after the Air Self-Defense Force successfully developed the ASM-1 air-launched anti-ship missile in 1980, it developed the Type 88 SSM-surface-to-ship missile- 1 for use on land and at sea. But so far, the Maritime Self-Defense Force has never mentioned using ASM-3 missiles on its warships

In fact, the Self-Defense Force is no longer interested in the ASM-3 missile, nor even mentioned the ASM-3 missile in the recent draft of Japan’s defense budget. Instead, they focused on improved models of Type 12 subsonic missiles, supersonic glide bombs and other projects.

So the question is why is there such a situation? According to the report, the US Navy believes that, with the rapid development of the Chinese Navy, to be able to break through the air defense firepower of the PLA fleet, it is necessary to have hypersonic weapons or extreme stealth features. strong and intelligent.

Therefore, while investing in the development of hypersonic weapons, the US Navy also purchased an intelligent “Navy Attack Missile” developed by Norway. This type is small in size, has the ability to fly at extremely low altitudes, has stealth capabilities and the ability to form large groups, to attack simultaneously on a single target.

Influenced by the US Navy, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said that, without stealth, to penetrate the PLA’s anti-aircraft fire, it must rely on hypersonic missiles with a speed of Mach 6-8; like the Russian Zircon missile undergoing testing.

While the Mach 3 speed of the ASM-3 supersonic anti-ship missile is clearly not fast enough, Japan’s position of “carrier killer” which has developed for nearly 30 years is outdated before when conducting series equipping.

According to information, if the procurement is completely abandoned, this domestically produced weapons project worth hundreds of millions of dollars will fail completely. To encourage further development  the Ministry of Defense of this country agreed to buy 20-30 ASM-3 missiles; but they certainly won’t be armed with this type of missile in large numbers.

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