Japan’s military considers launching long-range cruise missiles from its largest aircraft.

Japan's military considers launching long-range cruise missiles from its largest aircraft.

Japan Considers Using C-2 Transport Aircraft for Standoff Missiles

Kawasaki C-2

Japan’s Defense Ministry is exploring the idea of mounting long-range missiles on their Kawasaki C-2 transport planes, according to The Japan Times. This move aims to enhance the country’s standoff defense capabilities and enable counterstrike operations against enemy bases, such as missile launch sites.

The plan involves using a specific type of missile that ignites its engine in the air after being dropped during flight. This type of missile does not require major modifications to the aircraft. The United States is currently developing similar technology. The ministry has allocated ¥3.6 billion (approximately $25 million USD) in the fiscal 2023 budget for related expenses. Full-scale development is expected to commence after technical research is carried out until fiscal 2024.

One of the intriguing aspects of this plan is that the C-2 would airdrop the US Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), which has a range of about 900 kilometers. This missile is already slated for introduction on F-15 fighter jets. Additionally, Japan is also developing an air-launched version of the Type 12 Surface-to-Ship Missile (SSM) with a range of 900/1,000 km.

The system being considered by Japan’s Defense Ministry bears similarities to the US Rapid Dragon Palletized Effects System, currently utilized by the US Air Force Special Operations Command on the MC-130J Commando II. This system allows the deployment of long-range cruise missiles through standard airdrop procedures from a cargo aircraft.

The AGM-158 JASSM, capable of exceeding a range of 200 nautical miles, and its extended-range variant, the AGM-158B JASSM-ER, with a standoff distance of over 500 nautical miles, are GPS-guided radar-evading cruise missiles equipped with a 2,250-pound penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead. The JASSM’s precision routing and guidance, including an infrared seeker and anti-jam GPS, enable it to effectively locate and destroy high-value, well-defended targets.

Using a tactical airlifter like the C-2 to carry cruise missiles offers several advantages over traditional fighter aircraft. The transport planes can carry a larger number of missiles and remain airborne for longer periods. This greatly enhances Japan’s ability to conduct counterstrike operations and defend against potential threats.

The Kawasaki C-2 itself is a long-range twin-engine transport aircraft designed to replace the older C-1. It boasts a capacity to carry up to 110 people and travel approximately 7,600 kilometers while carrying 20 tons of cargo. As of May 2022, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force operates 14 C-2s out of their planned fleet of 22. Furthermore, Japan has converted the second prototype into an ELINT variant called RC-2.

Japan’s consideration of using the C-2 transport aircraft for standoff missiles showcases their commitment to strengthening their military capabilities. By leveraging this innovative approach, Japan aims to bolster its defenses and effectively respond to potential threats in a rapidly evolving global security landscape.