Japan’s response to Chinese anti-access/area-denial threats rest on three planks: increasingly large helicopter carriers, next-generation 3,300-ton Soryu-class submarines and new Aegis destroyers.
This strategy is further enhanced by plans to deploy 20 Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft as replacements for the P-3C, and upgraded SH-60K sub-hunting helicopters.
When integrated, this will create a much more capable fleet able to expand its role beyond being a simple “shield” to the US Navy’s “spear,” analysts said.
Data from AMI International shows that the Izumo-class helicopter destroyers (22DDH) and the Soryu-class submarines are the leading programs for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), both in budget and importance to Japan’s maritime security, according to Bob Nugent, affiliate consultant at AMI.
Japan unveiled the first of the two planned Izumo-class ships on Aug. 6, 2013 — the largest Japanese warship since World War II — which will be able to carry 15 helicopters. In 2009 and 2011, the Navy also commissioned two new third-generation Hyuga-class helicopter destroyers, each capable of deploying 11 helicopters.
Nugent said that at almost 20,000 tons full-load displacement, compared to the Hyuga class at 13,950 tons, the 22DDH are not fully aircraft carriers because they cannot launch, recover and sustain fixed-wing aircraft, meaning they are still helicopter-carrying “destroyers.” Still, they comprise a key step in the JMSDF’s evolution into a force with significant seagoing aviation platforms and capability.
“The Izumo class are really fleet flagships with advanced command and control, as well as advanced ASW [anti-submarine warfare] and anti-mine warfare capabilities,” he said.