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US approves major Tomahawk cruise missile sale to Japan.

| 2023

The United States recently approved Japan's request to purchase 400 Tomahawk missiles, marking a significant enhancement of the country's defense capabilities despite ongoing dialogue with China. Valued at $2.35 billion, the sale includes two types of Tomahawk missiles, each with a range of 1,600 kilometers (approximately 995 miles).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) launches a Block V Tomahawk (Picture source: US DoD)

The U.S. State Department clarified that this transaction aims to improve the security of Japan, a major ally contributing to political stability and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan will receive 200 Block IV All Up Round missiles and 200 Block V missiles, along with 14 control systems and various other equipment, software, and training.

This announcement comes at a time when the Biden administration is implementing parallel strategies in the Indo-Pacific, aiming to mend some strained relations with China while heavily investing in American allies in the region to counter Beijing's aggression. These efforts were recently highlighted by meetings between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and military chiefs from South Korea and Japan in Asia, as well as the historic visit of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the White House before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.

The Tomahawk missile, developed by General Dynamics in the 1970s, is a long-range cruise missile widely recognized for its versatility and precision. Initially designed as a nuclear weapon, the Tomahawk has evolved into primarily a conventional missile, playing a crucial role in the United States' precision strike strategies.

In the 1980s, the Tomahawk made its operational debut. It was first used in combat during Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986, where it was deployed against targets in Libya. Its notoriety further increased during the Gulf War in 1991, demonstrating its ability to strike with remarkable precision.

Technically, the Tomahawk is a subsonic cruise missile, powered by a turbojet engine and guided by multiple navigation systems. It is capable of flying at extremely low altitudes to avoid radar detection and tracking, making it particularly effective for penetrating enemy defenses. The missile can be launched from ships or submarines, offering significant operational flexibility.

Over the years, the Tomahawk has been regularly upgraded. The most recent versions, like the Block IV, feature advanced capabilities such as GPS navigation, improved jamming resistance, and the ability to reprogram the missile's target during flight. With a range of about 1,600 kilometers, the Tomahawk can reach distant targets, making it a key component of the U.S. military's long-range strike power.

However, it should be noted that the unit numbers and monetary values of these deals may change as negotiations continue. Additionally, the U.S. Congress always has the potential to interfere and block these deals, although a broad consensus within Congress regarding the strategic threat of China and the strong relationship between the United States and Japan makes this possibility unlikely.

This sale of Tomahawk missiles to Japan is part of a broader strategic approach by the United States to strengthen alliances in the Indo-Pacific region while managing delicate relations with China.

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