Japan purchases 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles worth $1.7 billion

The destroyer Chafee launches a Block V Tomahawk, the weapon’s newest variant, during a missile exercise. (Ens. Sean Ianno/U.S. Navy)

On January 18, 2024, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced it has formally signed a contract worth about 254 billion yen ($1.7 billion) with the U.S. Government to acquire up to 400 U.S.-made long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles from fiscal year 2025 to 2027.

In the presence of Japan’s Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for the bulk acquisition of Tomahawk missiles and related equipment was concluded under a U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement at the MoD in Tokyo on the same day.

For the record, the U.S. State Department approved a possible FMS to the Government of Japan of Tomahawk Weapon System in November 2023.

The breakdown of the acquisition costs is 169.4 billion yen for the missiles themselves and 84.7 billion yen for launch control computers and other related equipment to be equipped onto four classes of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Aegis-equipped destroyers: Kongo-class, Atago-class, Maya-class and ASEV.

This is nearly 70 billion yen less than originally expected, as the ministry had earmarked 211.3 billion yen for missile acquisition costs and 110.4 billion yen for related equipment, totaling 321.7 billion yen, in this fiscal year 2023 ‘s budget.

This price reduction came after the MoD decided to switch half of 400 Block V missiles, the latest version of the Tomahawk, to the Block IV variant, which is a previous version of the Tomahawk, in October 2023 in order to bring forward the introduction of the missiles in Japan one year earlier amid the increasing risk of an emergency in the Taiwan Strait and perhaps the Korean Peninsula.

The Block IV, which has the same 1,600 km range as the Block V, has been already widely deployed by the U.S. military and is easy to supply to Japan, making it possible to bring forward the acquisition date.

Officially named RGM-109E/UGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV – also known as the Tactical Tomahawk –, the land attack cruise missile features a longer striking range and improved loitering capabilities when compared with the Block III variant of the missile, according to Janes.

Meanwhile, the Block V Tomahawk missile includes a navigation/communications (NAV/COMMs) package for enhanced navigation performance and more robust and reliable communications when compared with the Block IV.

The Block V variant also provides the entry point for two additional subvariants: the Block Va variant, which adds a seeker kit to enable the targeting of moving targets at sea; and the Block Vb variant, which introduces a new multi-effects lethal package in place of the existing unitary warhead, according to Janes. It is still unclear which Block V variant Tokyo will buy at this stage.

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Japan of Tomahawk Weapon System.

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