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Japan to Host Manufacturing of Patriot Missiles in Bilateral Agreement with the US.

The United States and Japan may soon initiate joint production of missiles for Patriot anti-missile systems. This potential collaboration was discussed during a series of talks in Tokyo involving defense complex representatives from both countries. These discussions led to an agreement to create working groups aimed at further enhancing cooperation in the defense sector, including weapon production and maintenance.
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On May 11, 2024, U.S. soldiers and families from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade viewed a static display of the MIM-104 Patriot Surface-to-Air Missile System at McGregor Range, N.M. (Picture source: US DoD)

The co-production proposal, to be implemented in Japan, signifies a significant development in the bilateral defense relations between Tokyo and Washington. It involves not only the manufacture of missiles for existing Patriot systems but also the enhancement of infrastructure for the modernization of American ships and aircraft in Japan.

This commitment to collaboration was formalized during a summit in April 2024, where Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to initiate negotiations to intensify bilateral defense cooperation. These discussions are now expected to occur regularly at various levels, significantly increasing mutual engagement to strengthen defense capabilities and industrial integration.

The MIM-104 Patriot is a leading surface-to-air missile (SAM) system developed by the United States and produced by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Originally designed to counter high-altitude aerial threats such as aircraft and ballistic missiles, the system was first deployed in 1981 and has since been upgraded to address a broader range of threats, including cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.

Japan acquired the Patriot system to enhance its missile defense capabilities against potential regional threats, such as North Korea. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces first deployed the Patriot system in the late 1990s.

Japan currently has about 60 Patriot launchers, primarily in the PAC-3 configuration, which is the most advanced version. This version offers significant improvements in radar and missile technology, providing enhanced defensive coverage and interception capabilities. The PAC-3 system is known for its hit-to-kill technology, which neutralizes threats by physically striking an incoming target with a kinetic warhead, thus playing a critical role in Japan's layered missile defense architecture.

The cooperation extends beyond weapon production to significant efforts aimed at reequipping and modernizing American military equipment stationed or in operation in Japan. This development is part of a broader effort to synchronize the defense and production strategies of the two nations in response to increasing global security challenges, reflecting a major strategic initiative between the two global powers.

In October 2023, Japan announced changes to its arms export regulations, enabling the transfer of Patriot air defense missiles to the United States. These exports then allowed the United States to reallocate its own Patriot missile stockpile to support Ukraine.

In Japan, Patriot missiles are manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under a licensing agreement with American defense contractors Lockheed Martin and RTX.

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