The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 15 December announced two contracts to the Government of Japan for the sale of air-to-air missiles: a $224m (Y32bn) contract for 120 AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and a $59m contract for 44 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II Tactical Missiles and 29 AIM-9X Sidewinder Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM).

With tensions rising in the Indo-Pacific between China and its neighbours, Japan has increased its defence budget significantly in recent years, and if current spending patterns continue it stands to have the third largest military in the world in five years, behind the US and China. As well as China’s expansionist policies, Japan’s defence expenditure is also motivated to counter threats from the rising military strength of North Korea, and Russian activities in a disputed Northern Territory, according to GlobalData’s ‘Japan Defense Market 2023-2028’ report.

The DSCA said that the proposed sales improved Japan’s capability to ‘meet current and future threats in the region’ and defend its territory and US personnel stationed there. It added that the sale also meets US foreign policy goals and national security objectives by improving the security of Japan as a major ally in the Indo-Pacific, which the DCSA describes as a high threat region. 

The principal contractor for both contracts is RTX. Included with the contract are 120 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), and 3 AIM-120C-8 guidance sections.

The AMRAAM is a new generation all-weather missile integrated with combat air-craft including the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado, Farrier, F-4 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as finger utility in surface launched systems such as the Norwegian Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS). 

The AIM-9X is an infrared air-to-air missiles belongs to a family of AIM Sidewinder short-range missiles that is integrated onto the E/A-18G, F/A-18C/D, F-15, F-15C, F/A-18E/F, F-15E, F-16, F-22 and F-35 models, and is also capable of being used with NASAMS and other ground based launchers. 

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Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force includes 156 F-15J Eagle and 44 F-15DJ Eagle, and 31 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets that are capable of being armed with both the AMRAAM missile and the AIM-9X Sidewinder.