Japan is preparing to turn its transport aircraft into powerful missile carriers capable of attacking enemy bases and missile launch positions. Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) said this is critical to deterring China and North Korea.
The MOD report does not specify the specific type of missiles to be used on the Kawasaki C-2 aircraft, but notes that preference is given to missiles that are dropped before engine start. This will avoid significant modifications to the aircraft.
It is interesting to note that the US is also developing similar technology. The Rapid Dragon airborne “bom pallets” concept was first tested in 2021. Japan may use this system or a similar domestic development on its C-130 cargo planes.
Japan is also developing its own “anti-ship missile for island defense” with modular warheads and a low-observable design. The missile is expected to be able to be used for both ground attack, electronic warfare and reconnaissance purposes. Its range will be about 2,000 kilometers.
The use of a palletized munition system will allow Japan to significantly improve attack accuracy. Reconnaissance missiles with a high-resolution camera will be able to track the enemy and destroy their radars and other sensors, and then launch a precision strike.
Experts say palletized munitions systems will solve the problems of platform compatibility and availability of air-launched cruise missiles. For example, the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Missile (JASSM), designed to be launched from fighters and bombers, could be successfully used on Japanese transport aircraft.
It is also worth noting that the Rapid Dragon system allows the U.S. to launch long-range strikes without the use of fighter or bomber aircraft. This means that Japan will be able to rapidly deploy and use this system without the need to modify carrier aircraft.