After North Korea conducted with missile tests in March, Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared at a recent press conference that North Korea is a more urgent situation than Iran, according to FoxNews.com.
Sounds bad? Well, here's confirmation.
According to the British newspaper The Sun, Japan is considering legalizing a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
Now Japan is contemplating action it hasn't taken in a little over 75 years. So, just how would Japan carry off its first pre-emptive strike? What could it use? Here's a preview.
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force has 62 F-2A and 71 F-4E/RF-4E fighters in its inventory, according to FlightGlobal's World Aircraft Directory. The F-4 is legendary as a multi-role fighter — and can still haul a lot of bombs, although Japan's would need the systems installed to do so. The F-2A… well, think of it as a F-16 Fighting Falcon that took steroids. Japan also has five aerial refueling tankers (4 KC-767s that are essentially the KC-46, one KC-130H).
What Japan is short on is the proficiency in using precision air-to-ground missiles that would make for a successful strike on North Korea's missiles. The F-2 is capable of carrying the AGM-65 Maverick and various bombs, according to Globalsecurity.org, though. And Japan did develop infra-red guided bombs known as the GCS-1 based off the Mk 82 and M117, but they are primarily anti-ship weapons.
Godzilla movies aside, strike missions on ground targets are not the forte of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force.
But what Japan could do is team up with South Korea to carry out the strike. In essence, Japan would provide the top cover with its F-15J and F-2 fighters. Japan also could provide search-and-rescue support using its helicopter carriers like the Izumo. The South Koreans would use F-15K Eagles and F-16s to launch the actual ground attack.
Should Japan change its laws, though, we'd likely see Japan acquire the Joint Direct Attack Munition – GPS-guided bombs. Missiles like the JASSM would also be a likely purchase as well. Japan could also easily build its own – much of what holds Japan back is laws regarding defense policy, not technological ability.
In that case, we'd most likely see F-2s form the bulk of the strike package. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force would probably try to hit air defenses with Tomahawk cruise missiles (the Kongo and Atago-class destroyers are pretty much copies of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and use the same Mk 41 vertical-launch systems). Then, the F-2s would go in, trying to use the JDAMs to hit the launch facilities.
It would be a moment for the world to hold its breath. Kim Jong Un is not exactly the most stable person in the world, and how he might take having his missiles (or nukes) attacked is anyone's guess.