Japan on Monday raised the number of Aegis-equipped destroyers in its fleet to eight from the current six, after the Maritime Self-Defense Force said two new ships had successfully intercepted ballistic missiles in exercises.

The tests came with North Korea test-firing ballistic missiles at an unprecedented pace, and with China ramping up its missile capabilities.

Raising the total number of destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile interceptor system is in line with the country's 2013 National Defense Program Guidelines.

The two new Aegis destroyers that took part in the successful tests were the MSDF's Maya and Haguro. The Maya was commissioned in 2020 as the nation's largest Aegis-equipped vessel, while the Haguro was commissioned last year.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis-equipped Maya destroyer launches a new Standard Missile-3 Block 2A interceptor on Nov. 16, 2022, in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo courtesy of the Maritime Self-Defense Force)(Kyodo)

In tests conducted separately, the two vessels were able to intercept missiles outside the Earth's atmosphere following their launch in Hawaii, according to the MSDF.

The Maya intercepted a mock ballistic missile on Wednesday by launching the new Standard Missile-3 Block 2A, an interceptor that Japan and the United States jointly developed as the successor to SM-3 Block 1A to provide extended coverage for defense.

It was the first time a SM-3 Block 2A had been launched from an MSDF vessel, the MSDF said. The Haguro, meanwhile, used a SM-3 Block 1A on Saturday.

The two vessels also conducted a test on Monday to track a missile, with the Maya detecting a mock missile that was then successfully shot down by the Haguro.

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