Japanese ASM3 Air To Surface Missile Is Almost Ready

As China adopts an ever-growing belligerent approach

Japan's military is getting its act together. Japan has got its deadly, anti-ship ASM-3missile ready for deployment. This missile would be a game-changer for Japan as it tries to counter an expanding fleet of Chinese warships. The ASM-3 or Air to Surface version 3 missile is a supersonic anti-ship weapon developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to replace the ASM-1 and ASM-2 missiles. This is possibly one of the most important tactical development when it comes to the Asia Pacific theater. In this article, we will analyze how japan's ASM-3 could stop the Chinese Navy in its track? Let’s get started. Japan has watched as the People’s LiberationArmy Navy or PLAN has gone from a green-water navy capable of operating only in regional seas relatively close to home to a full-fledged blue water fleet operating as far as the Indian ocean and Baltic Sea.

China has maintained a very high economic growth over the last 20 years

It has become a major economic power. It has spent heavily on military buildup & modernized its military forces. The PLAN is now considerably larger than Japan’sMaritime Self Defense Force in both overall tonnage and number of vessels. China’s rise, as predicted by many experts not peaceful. In recent times, China has been very aggressive in its posturing. Its activities are far off from being a sensible nation. China’s corrosive behaviors in the SouthChina Sea and neighboring areas have not gone noticed. Japan has been increasingly conscious of the fact that its territory which is surrounded by waters is vulnerable to naval strikes from Chinese undersea and surface combatants. Japan’s defense budget is ~47.6 billion USD and that of China is ~261 billion USD. It is technically not possible for Japan to match China's platform by platform.

For example, China is building a Type 055 destroyer which is one of the largest in the world. The spec sheet of Type 055 is impressive and will certainly give a big boost to Chinese naval capabilities. China plans to build 8 of these and the first one named ‘Nanchang' is currently in active service. To counter the Chinese Navy, Japan needs an asymmetric offensive capability. According to Japan’s constitution adopted after the Second World War, it is a pacifist country. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution states that "The Japanese people forever renounce war and the threat or use of force.” But slowly but surely, Japan’s way of looking at this is changing in the face of the Chinese threat. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long sought to enable the Japanese Self Defense Force to have a more aggressive role.

A future conflict against China

Will involve the Japanese military preventing Chinese warship from reaching the open Pacific where they can operate freely and will be difficult to engage. This is where ASM-3 will be helpful. In November 2015, Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced it would conduct a live-fire experiment of the ASM-3 in 2016. The target chosen was the decommissioned ship JDS Shirane. In February 2017, an F-2 carried out a jettison test of the missile as a precursor to living to fire. Footage of a test launch was released in August 2017 ASM-3’s development & final testing was completed in late 2017 but the missile was not mass-produced because its range 200 km or 125 miles was deemed to be insufficient. Tactical planners in Japan’s Defense Ministryundertook detailed scrutiny of the missile and decided that the range needed to be increased.

This was mainly because of the fact that China posses long-range air defense systems that could target the jets which are supposed to launch this missile. The Defense Ministry asked Mitsubishi to increase the range to twice without making the missile too much bigger. Mitsubishi worked on this aspect diligently and a year later the missile reappeared. It now posses a range of 400 km or 250 miles. The ASM-3 flies at a top speed of Mach 3, making it very difficult to intercept. A solid-fuel rocket booster fires first, accelerating the missile to high supersonic speed. That’s when an air-breathing ramjet takes over, feeding off the same solid fuel but adding compressed air for sustained thrust. The working is similar to Indo- Russian Brahmos cruise missile. The missile has a two-layer guidance system.

The ASM-3 follows GPS coordinates to reach the target zone then switches on the radar for terminal guidance. It carries a “Sea Buster” tandem charge warhead designed to take out surface warships and aircraft carriers. According to Jane’s, it comprises of a central warhead, which carries armor-piercing high-explosive shells and a nose fuze, and a precursor warhead that uses shaped charges. It is also important to note that since the 17-foot length missile is heavy and will be flying at high speed it will have a huge Kinetic Energy since Kinetic Energy is proportional to ‘Mass’ & the square of ‘Velocity'. To give you a perspective, The Brahmos missile has broken ship in half during the live-fire test with a single hit. Currently,

The missile will be deployed by Japan’s F-2 fighter

Japan has around 95 of these fighters. The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and manufactured by Mitsubishi HeavyIndustries and Lockheed Martin for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the United States. It has a max speed of Mach 1.7 and a range of 833 km or 518 mi. F-2 armed with ASM-3 will be a very potent combination. The missile will also be used by the F-2's successor once the aircraft retires in the 2030s. Forbes Magazine indicated that compatibility with the ASM-3 will be a requirement for Japan’s new F-3 stealth fighter which is being developed indigenously.

It is important to note that ASM-3 is too big to fit in the weapons bay of an F-35 stealth fighter, which is why Japan is acquiring Joint Strike Missiles for its F-35s. It must be noted here that China is already witnessing an economic slowdown. China’s aggressive military posturing may come back to haunt it as Japan seems to have restarted its militarization. It must be noted that Japan already has a strong military though it has not gone all out in its pursuit. If Japan decisively takes that path, it could rise in a very short time. Another important aspect is the U.S is Japan’sally and is bound by the treaty of 'Mutual Cooperation and Security' to come to Japan’said in case Japan faces aggression from an external party. So, if a conflict breaks out, Japan will need to hold off China for some time till full-fledged

American support is received.

In this situation, ASM-3 could play a tactically critical role. Missile defense is one of the most technologically challenging quests, it's like hitting a bullet with another bullet. When a missile moves in an unpredictable path with a speed of Mach 3, it becomes very difficult to intercept. Chinese warships will be in a very precarious position if they have to face multiple F-2s launching ASM-3s from different directions and altitudes. Also, the fact that a single hit could cripple or completely destroy a warship - makes it a very dangerous proposition for the Chinese navy.