The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force commissioned its largest-ever helicopter carrier Wednesday in Yokohama as officials denied that the massive vessel could be used as a conventional aircraft carrier or represents a prototype for one in the future.
The 248-meter Izumo, which has a displacement of 19,500 tons and is officially classified as a “helicopter destroyer,” resembles an aircraft carrier at first glance.
It has a flat flight deck with a single superstructure, which contains the bridge. The deck is large and robust enough to permit the operation of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, JMSDF officers said.
The U.S. military has deployed Ospreys in Japan and the Ground Self-Defense Force is considering procuring the aircraft.
Addressing reporters after the commissioning ceremony in Yokohama on Wednesday, Japan’s Defense Minister Gen Nakatani emphasized that the ship is designed to carry patrol helicopters, not fixed-wing aircraft such as fighter planes.
“We are not thinking about using this as an aircraft carrier,” Nakatani said.
For years, the government has interpreted the war-renouncing Constitution as allowing Japan to possess the minimum necessary forces for self-defense, not offense. This means the nation is not permitted to operate aircraft carriers designed to attack foreign adversaries, the government has said.