U.S., Japan to test interceptor missile in face of North Korea provocations

TOKYO, Sept. 28 (UPI) — The United States and Japan are to test-launch a new co-developed interceptor missile as North Korea raises tensions with nuclear tests and dozens of test missile launches.

The test of the upgraded missile is to take place in October near Hawaii, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday.

Due to a time-consuming production process, however, the new Standard Missile-3 Block 2A would not be deployed until 2021, according to the report.

The 2A is an improvement over the SM-3 Block 1A, which is deployed on Aegis destroyers used by Japan’s self-defense forces.

The unloaded weapon is to be tested near the Hawaiian island of Kauai and launched from a U.S. Navy Aegis destroyer.

Japan has planned a record defense budget for 2017, in response to North Korea provocations and to Chinese incursions near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Japan’s defense budget has increased annually since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in December 2012 and the $50 billion budget is Tokyo’s largest planned allocation for the military.

The 2A is expected to enter into mass production as early as 2017, and Tokyo has requested $146 million be budgeted toward financing the main part of the missile.

Japan also retains surface-to-air guided missiles that are part of the Patriot system, or PAC-3.

The 2A is capable of reaching a maximum altitude of 620 miles.

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