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Japan awards Mitsubishi Heavy $2.8 billion missile contracts

Illustration shows Mitsubishi Heavy Industries logo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has awarded its largest defence equipment maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries contracts worth 378 billion yen ($2.84 billion) to develop and build a new missile force aimed at deterring China from using military force in East Asia.

The four contracts include land, sea and air-launched missiles as well as a hypersonic ballistic warhead that it wants to begin deploying from 2026, Japan's Ministry of Defense said in a press release.

In the wake of Russia's attack on Ukraine and amid growing concern that China could launch an attack on neighbouring Taiwan, Japan in December unveiled its biggest military build-up since World War Two that will double defence spending over five years.

The new missile force, which is expected to be capable of striking ships and land targets more than 1,000 km from Japan, is at the center of that plan.

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To bolster its defences before it can deploy those home-built missiles, Japan in February also said it will bulk order Raytheon Technologies Corp Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States.

It has not yet said how many it will buy, but local media reports said it will be as many as 500.

($1 = 133.0800 yen)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Jan Harvey)