Analysts warn that Asia could be sliding into an accelerated arms race as countries react to China’s military expansionism. Here is a list of defence systems that several Asian countries are looking to acquire.


Australia said on 16 September it would build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines under an Indo-Pacific security partnership with the United States and Britain. Australia will also enhance its long-range strike capability with Tomahawk cruise missiles deployed on naval destroyers and air-to-surface missiles for its F/A-18 Hornet and F-35A Lightning II aircraft that can hit targets at a distance of 900 km (559 miles). (559 miles).

Long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASMs) will be deployed on its F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, while it prepares precision-guided strike missiles capable of destroying targets from more than 400km (250 miles) for its ground forces. It will also work with the US to develop hypersonic missiles under the trilateral security agreement, known as AUKUS.

Separately, the US State Department in June approved the possible sale of 29 Boeing Co AH-64E Apache Apache attack helicopters to Australia in a deal worth up to $3.5 billion.


announced Friday a plan to spend $8.69 billion over the next five years to upgrade its military capabilities, a programme likely to include long-range missiles and cruise missiles. The programme will include a new missile, which Taiwanese media say could have a range of up to 1,200 km and is an improved version of the Hsiung Sheng cruise missile.

In 2020, the US government approved sales of 100 Boeing-made Harpoon coastal defence systems, three weapons systems including missiles, sensors and artillery, and four sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan. They are worth about $5 billion in total. Last month, Washington approved the possible sale of 40 howitzer systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at up to $750 million.

South Korea

Successfully test-fired a conventional submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on 15 September, becoming the first non-nuclear-armed country to develop such a system. The missile is believed to be a variant of the country’s Hyunmoo-2B land-based ballistic missile, with a flight range of about 500km. Last year, it developed the Hyunmoo-4 missile, which has a range of 800 km and can mount a 2-tonne payload.

South Korea unveiled other new missiles, including a supersonic cruise missile that will be deployed soon. It has also been working to develop solid-fuel rocket engines as part of a plan to launch a spy satellite in the late 2020s, and successfully conducted a test firing in July.

Its defence ministry, in a plan published in 2020, detailed a proposal to build three submarines. Officials have said two of them, with displacements of 3,000 tonnes and 3,600 tonnes, will be based on diesel engines, but declined to specify how the larger, 4,000-tonne one will be powered. Building a nuclear submarine has been one of President Moon Jae-in’s election promises, but he never officially announced it after taking office in 2017.

North Korea

In July 2019, North Korean state media showed leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a newly built large submarine. While he did not describe the submarine’s weapons, analysts said the size of the vessel indicated it was designed to carry ballistic missiles. That same year, North Korea said it had successfully tested a new SLBM missile from the sea, and in January it showed off a new SLBM design during a military parade in Pyongyang. State media said this month that the country tested its first rail-based missile launch system.


It is mass-producing its DF-26, a weapon that can be fitted with nuclear warheads and has a range of up to 4,000km. At a 2019 parade, China also unveiled new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and showed off its advancing intercontinental and hypersonic missiles, designed to strike aircraft carriers and bases that support US military strength in Asia. Its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17, can theoretically manoeuvre at many times the speed of sound, making it more difficult to counter. It also has DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the backbone of China’s nuclear deterrent, which are capable of reaching the United States with multiple warheads. In addition, China is moving ahead with the construction of what would be its third aircraft carrier.


It has spent millions of dollars on long-range air-launched weapons and is developing a new version of a truck-mounted anti-ship missile, the Type 12, with an expected range of 1,000 km. In 2020, the US State Department authorised a deal for Japan to buy 105 Lockheed F-35 fighter jets from Japan at an estimated cost of $23 billion.



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