Japan Seen as New Market for Missile Warning Sensors

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Raytheon Co. is eyeing Japan as a potential market for space-based missile warning sensor technology, but current U.S. export restrictions make it all but impossible for the company to pursue that type of opportunity, said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian Arnold, vice president of strategy at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif.

Japan’s parliament, or Diet, last year lifted a longstanding ban on military space activities. Since then, Japanese government officials have identified space-based missile warning as an area of interest, particularly in light of missile testing by Japan’s frequently unpredictable neighbor, North Korea.

During a panel discussion Nov. 4 at the Strategic Space Symposium, Arnold said there is a potentially ripe market among close U.S. allies for Raytheon-developed missile warning sensor technology but the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have tied the company’s hands. In a brief interview, Arnold said Japan represents just one potential opportunity that the company cannot pursue.

Raytheon developed an experimental missile warning sensor under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Third Generation Infrared Surveillance program, which was hatched a few years ago amid continued development troubles with the Space Based Infrared System missile warning program. The Air Force recently awarded the company a $46 million contract modification to qualify the hardware for flight, although there are no firm plans yet to launch the sensor into orbit.

Arnold said while ITAR is a major barrier to exporting missile warning technology to U.S. allies, he expressed hope that the U.S. space policy review now under way will help loosen the restrictions.