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New Japanese Aircraft Carrier

Is Japan located in a Zone of Peace or in a Zone of Turmoil? Some scholars think that Japan is located in a zone of peace. Zones of turmoil are by comparison poor, over-populated, disaster-prone, and virtually ungovernable.

Japan was a major aircraft carrier power in the period of World War II. Military magazine of Canada "Kanwa Defense Review" (December 2012) reported that the " maritime competition of large and medium-sized aircraft carriers by China and Japan has already started". The magazine pointed out the current state of the carrier-based aircraft and carrier-based weapons in China and Japan. In January 2012 the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force began building the 22DDH, a new light aircraft carrier with that 27,000 tons standard displacement, developed on the basis of the Hyuga-class helicopter carrier. On the other hand, the Chinese Navy aircraft carrier "Liaoning" completed at-sea tests. This means that the navies of China and Japan had entered the aircraft carrier era. Accoding to reports, China is also building two more indigenously designed aircraft carriers, which should be inducted by 2020, with the ultimate plan being the acquisition of five aircraft carriers.

The carrier embodies great symbolism for China's political and military leaders as a totem of China's rise from weakness to strength. The carrier's political importance was highlighted in Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao's remarks while presiding at the delivery ceremony, in which he said it would "arouse national pride and patriotic passion. This has mighty and deep significance for the opening of a new facet in our enterprise of socialism with Chinese characteristics".

Japan is a country with few natural resources and little domestic food production, so the safety of merchant shipping is a matter of national survival in crisis or wartime. This gives priority to operations grouped under the heading of protection of sea lines of communication (SLOCs). China rgues that aircraft carriers need not be seen only as power projection platforms, but as a means of defense of sea lines of communication, such as oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. They also have peaceful uses, which was demonstrated by the extensive use of a US carrier to support rescue and aid the Tsunami victims. If China could make such arguements, so could Japan.

Japan is a maritime nation that is surrounded by the sea. The Maritime Self-Defense Force Navy intercepts the enemy at sea in order to prevent land invasion. Despite the fact that Japan ranks #61 in the world in land area, at about 380 000 km 2 (not including in south Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands with the exception of the four northern islands), the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Japan cover about 4.48 million km2, about 12 times the land area. This is the sixth largest in the world in total area. Japan is said (many cases) to be a "small country", but it has an interest of their own in vast waters. On the other hand, China has only about 880,000 km2 in the total area of the territorial sea, contiguous zone and EEZ, less than one-fifth of Japan.

Vice Admiral Yoji Koda, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (Retired), argued in 2011 that "The flood of construction of carrier-like multipurpose ships, like JS Hyuga, in the world’s navies may cause concern about a new “carrier arms race.” However, as we have seen, each navy must formulate, like the Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force, its own strategy and force-planning rationale for this type of ship, taking account of contemporary security circumstances and the tendency toward expanded naval missions. Through-deck multirole ships—not the strike-oriented carriers of several navies—are the most suitable for deepening international coordination and collaboration among navies."

Kyle Mizokami argued in 2013 that "A good compromise to building carriers would be to purchase F-35B fighters and base them on land. Japan doesn’t need long-range power projection, just something it can use to cover the periphery, particularly Senkaku islands. Basing fighters in small airfields throughout the Ryukyus on islands such as Ishigakijima, Miyakojima and Yonaguni would allow Japan to play a shell game with China, constantly moving around fighters among dispersed airfields and making their detection difficult."

Japan does not hold even one operational aircraft carrier for fixed-wing aircraft in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. There are "aircraft carrier type" ships, such as the two Hyuga-class destroyer (total length 197m, 19,000 ton loaded displacement), and three ships of the Osumi type transport vessels (total length 178m, load displacement 14,000 tons). But the former is operation of the helicopter (patrol, minesweeping, transport), the latter is the purpose of landing and tanks with LCAC (air-cushion landing craft). It is not possible to operate fixed-wing aircraft from these ships. The new "22DDH" (budget year Heisei "22", "DDH" is a symbol that represents a helicopter equipped destoyer) has a total length 248m and a large ship load displacement of 30,000 tons (standard displacement 19,500 tons). In fact, this size is larger medium-sized regular aircraft carriers of the former Imperial Navy. The F-35B fighter has a vertical takeoff and landing capability, so that even though the 22DDH is not equipped with a catapult, there is no problem operating the F-35B with flat deck withouth a ski-jump.

Since the founding of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in 1954, the defense strategy of Japan has been based on the Japan-US alliance. US forces concentrate on offensive operations, while the JMSDF maximizes its capability for defensive operations - a “spear and shield”relationship. The operational concept under the Japan-US alliance is that in case of a national or regional contingency, the U.S. Navy would deploy CSGs into the seas surrounding Japan, to provide the strike capability lacking in the JMSDF to oblige the enemy to attack American forces, and draw the United States into the conflict so that Japan would not fight alone. Britan embarked on a program to build big-deck strike carriers to sustain its alliance relationship with the United States, and France as done the same so as not to be left behind. Perhaps Japan might do the same.

Japan is not, in principle, allergic to operating fixed wing aircraft from ships, unlike the nuclear allergy. Vice Admiral Yoji Koda noted that in the late 1950s "the JMSDF Maritime Staff Office (MSO) in Tokyo developed a plan for two variants: “CVH-a,” of twenty thousand tons, with eighteen helicopters and four to six S-2 fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft; and “CVH-b,” of ten thousand tons, with eighteen helicopters. It was decided that CVH-b would be more suitable for the JMSDF. .... CVH construction was not included and was never discussed again in later years. This was the first demise of the JMSDF helicopter carrier". Instead, a series of helicopter escort ships was started, culmnating half a century latter in the 22DDH.

Among the advantages of a ship such as the 22DDH are the fact that there is no minimum size for their air groups. The VTOL capability need not be an all-weather or full-maintenance one so savings in vessel size and equipment are possible; fleets of VTOL ships can be dispersed or concentrated at will, when dispersed each vessel has its own air group, when concentrated the force has no prime target at its core and its VTOL capability is not eliminated till the last ship is sunk; no ship is unriskable and so they can be deployed forward where all their weapons can be used. The deficiency of such navies is their lack of fixed-wing aircraft. But V/STOL aircraft's limited range means they are not sufficiently superior to ship-launched missiles to persuade many navies to purchase them to date.

In April-May 2012 a Japanese magazine published artwork of the proposed Japanese F3 Shinshin stealth fighter shooting down a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter. The article also had images which depicted an indigenous Japanese aircraft carrier. This was the magazine article writer's fantasy ship, not an official design. The Japanese government has not even hinted that it is interested in building a fixed-wing aircraft carrier.

Kyle Mizokami noted that "The design is an evolution of the Hyuga/Ise helicopter carriers, and the larger, follow-on 22DDH series.... this ship would use steam catapults–apparently just two.... the ship would be powered by General Electric LM2500 gas turbine engines, the same used in USS Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and JS Atago-class Aegis destroyers. The engines are built under license in Japan by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries.... 3 LM2500s would give the ship roughly 90,000 shipboard horsepower. (Compare with USS Nimitz at 100,000 tons and 260,000 horsepower, and USS America at 45,000 tons and 70,000 horsepower.) Perhaps you’d want a fourth LM2500 to generate steam for the catapults. Ship length is 285 meters, or 935 feet. This is just slightly longer than HMS Queen Elizabeth, but about 70 feet shorter than the PLAN’s ex-Varyag. I think we can safely put this in the same displacement category as Queen Elizabeth, or 65,000 tons."

new type of air escort ship
Full dispalcement65,000 tons
Total length284.0 m
Maximum width73 m
Water line width39 m
draft9.9 m
  • F-35B about 30 aircraft
  • About 10 helicopters
  • Total crewabout 1,600 people
  • Ship handling personnel: 679
  • aviation personnel: 610
  • HQ personnel: 95
  • Self-landing mobile task force: 250 available
  • When an aircraft carrier is deployed with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, it would probably have a different name. If the constitution was amended, and the Self-Defense Forces became the armed forces of Japan both in name and reality, this would remove various restrictions imposed on the operation of the "defensive defense" policy, easing significantly the designation of "aircraft carrier". It would be also possible to use it with impunity. However, it is difficult at present. For example, the Osumi type transport ship of the Maritime Self-Defense Force is in reality a "dock landing ship" [LPD], or the F-2 Air Self-Defense Force "support fighter" is in fact a "fighter attack aircraft". For that matter, in fact Hyuga class helicopter equipped destroyers is also a "helicopter carrier". When it comes to Japan's first post-war full-scale aircraft carrier, there would have to be an alternative designation to "aircraft carrier". So, there are designations that could be proposed, such as Aircraft Support Ship or Aircraft Support Carrier [for short, "ASC"]. This would add one word to represent the aircraft carrier in English to "Aircaft Carrier," "Support", no matter how huge the hull.

    NHK reported 20 March 2018 that Japan's main governing Liberal Democratic Party planne to propose introducing F-35B fighter jets and a multi-purpose aircraft carrier to be operated under the country's defense-only stance. The government was to review the National Defense Program Guidelines this year for the first time in 5 years. On Tuesday, the LDP panel on national security compiled a set of proposals to be considered. The panel would call for procuring a multi-purpose aircraft carrier that can also serve as a hospital ship. It will be operated solely for defense purposes. Retrofitting of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's destroyer Izumo was to be listed as an option. The panel also wanted the Defense Ministry to acquire advanced F-35B stealth planes, which can take off from short runways. Panel chair Gen Nakatani suggested Japan must become able to hit back at enemy bases. The LDP plans to submit the proposals to the government for discussion in late May 2018.

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    Page last modified: 02-12-2019 18:04:07 ZULU