TOKYO — Japan’s likely adoption of the advanced Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) system will greatly improve its combat capabilities and ability to operate with US forces.
The possibility of acquiring NIFC-CA seemed certain following a statement to that effect by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani during a debate in Japan’s Diet. Nakatani revealed during a question-and-answer session June 29 in the House of Representatives that Japan was now “studying” adopting NIFC-CA to counter China’s CJ-10 Long Sword cruise missile, which has become a major concern to Japan, particularly when launched from the Xian H-6 version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bomber.
“For the sake of protecting people’s lives and property … we must consider the adoption of the latest US technology, such as NIFC-CA,” Nakatani said.
The revelation followed a comment made June 26 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a Diet question-and-answer session that Japan must network its small but growing fleet of Aegis missile cruisers with each other and the US Navy.
NIFC-CA is based on the US Navy’s cooperative engagement capability (CEC) network, which utilizes datalinks to transmit targeting information between the E-2D Hawkeye airborne warning and control aircraft and Navy Aegis-equipped ships carrying SM-6 missiles. This enables Aegis ships to conduct air defense at the same time as strategic ballistic missile defense (BMD) missions.
Such a capability would be used by the two new Atago-class Aegis cruisers on order, which will automatically come with the latest baseline 9 specification enabling NIFC-CA. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) currently has six Aegis ships.