|JMSDF Hyūga DDH 181|
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force launched its third (and first of a new class) helicopter carrier, the Izumo. As with the Hyūga, pictured left, it looks more like a light aircraft carrier than a destroyer, but the Japanese have their reasons for doing what they do.
Even though the Chinese accuse Japan of “constant military expansion”, the new Izumo will replace an older DDH that doesn’t look nearly so much like an aircraft carrier. So while the JMSDF is replacing, they’re modernizing and enhancing capabilities.
Izumo is Japan’s biggest warship (810 feet in length) constructed since World War II, and at a cost of US $1.2 billion, it isn’t cheap — but the Japanese are concerned about China.
Izumo’s unveiling ceremony took place on the 68th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima — a date clash which Tokyo said was coincidental. However it was intended to send a message to China. The Japanese-built carrier can accommodate nine helicopters and is expected to play a major role in disaster and rescue missions, as well as defending sea lanes and sovereignty claims, according to the defence ministry.
The navy’s biggest vessels currently are a pair of smaller helicopter carriers. Less than two weeks ago, the Chinese coastguard entered waters disputed with Japan for the first time, upping the ante in a festering row over ownership of the Senkaku islands, which Beijing also claims and calls the Diaoyus.
The rocky islands are located in rich fishing grounds in the East China Sea and are believed to harbor vast oil and gas reserves beneath the sea bed.
Last year, China commissioned its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning as part of its own military build-up. At the same time, the US has been drawing down naval construction and capability as part of the Obama doctrine to vastly increase spending on social programs at the cost of military preparedness.
Though the Japanese have not hinted at this, the Izumo could carry up to 10 of the US Governments newest F-35B V/STOL stealth fighter-bombers. I’m sure that this logistic option has not occurred to the Japanese…or to the Chinese…or to the US Navy.