Japan’s hypersonics aim for strategic independence

Japan unveiled plans to develop its own hypersonic weapons back in March 2020, joining the club of states that have such technology, including the US, Russia, China, India, Australia, France, Germany, and North Korea. Those plans are taking on new strategic significance amid signs Tokyo may amend its pacifist constitution to allow for more offensive military capabilities.

Japan plans to field two types of hypersonic weapons, the Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) and Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP). The HCM functions like a conventional cruise missile and can be armed with an armor-piercing warhead designed to penetrate the deck of an aircraft carrier, or an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead for land attack. 

In comparison, the HVGP utilizes a solid-fuel rocket engine to boost its warhead to high altitudes before separating, where it can glide to the target at hypersonic speeds. It also can be armed with multiple EFPs for area saturation attacks.

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