Japan's Navy: Sailing Towards the Future  (Page 2 of 2)

Unlike the Hyuga and its sister ship, Ise, the 22DDH will not be fitted with a torpedo launch system aboard, instead relying on its seven ASW helicopters to fulfill that task. What is clear about 22DDH (which derives its name from the 22nd year of the Heisei era – or 2010), is that it could quite easily double up as the kind of light aircraft carrier that the U.S. Marine Corps uses for expeditionary operations, although it lacks a well deck (something that a senior U.S. marine told me was "unforgivable" – and he was only half joking).

Along with the submarine fleet's ASW service in the Cold War, amphibious landings and island defense are among the few JMSDF operations that come close to deploying the kind of offensive capability that might rile defenders of Article 9 of the Constitution. Interestingly, it's not a brand new capability: the JMSDF has had “true” amphibious vessels in the form of three 14,000-ton Oosumi-class dock landing ships (LSDs, officially tank-landing ships) since the late 1990s. What has changed is the threat perception: until recently the JMSDF did not train for amphibious landings and so far has resisted the urge to create a marine corps.

This is changing: in Guam in late 2012 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) rangers took part in landing training with U.S. Marines "on real islands," in the words of a Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman, and Adm. Kawano noted that Japan's offshore islands remain vulnerable to attack. The JGSDF practiced another amphibious landing drill recently, although this was launched from helicopters rather than ships. While no one explicitly mentioned the Senkaku Islands, a Chinese attack would provide a tantalizing test case for how confident Japanese military planners were in these upgraded capabilities.

The recent landing drills and the Senkaku dispute notwithstanding, in the medium to long-term the MoD and top brass are more concerned with contingencies around Okinawa. A leaked 1997 Japanese MoD planning documentand James Holmes – noted that Miyako and Ishigaki islands are both seen as potential Chinese targets to allow the PLA Navy to break out of the First Island Chain and into the Pacific proper.

It's important to note that these are just contingencies: much would need to go wrong for China to decide that an invasion of Japanese territory was the best way to solve whatever crisis the two countries found themselves in. And of course, if that invasion involved Okinawa, then the U.S. Marine Corps III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) based at Camp Courtney on the main island would almost certainly have a major part to play in the response. 

Away from worse-case scenarios and back in the real world, Japan's navy is facing up to a few new realities. The participation of two JMSDF destroyers in the international anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden has provided valuable experience, while P-3Cs based at Djibouti have also provided excellent on-the-job training and internationalization for its aviation crews. Those crews are now waiting for the arrival of the new Kawasaki P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPAs), while Prime Minister Abe's recent interest in the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle could add a powerful new tool in Japan's reconnaissance web around its southwestern islands. Throw in the transfer of Japanese F-15s to Naha and a new early warning radar station to be built on Yonaguni island, which is only 110 km from Taiwan – and Tokyo's capabilities in that part of the world start looking quite formidable. Whether the JMSDF is willing to take on a more aggressive posture under the direction of a more proactive government remains an open question. Yet, it seems that the service – like the SDF as a whole – is moving, albeit slowly, away from its Cold War niche and into a broader, multi-mission role.

James Hardy is Asia-Pacific Editor of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.

John Anderson
July 31, 2013 at 05:44

China did not claim Diayu before 1945 was because she lost the war to Japan – a fact that you should obviously know. Even Taiwan was under Japanese occupation till 1945. Do you mean that Taiwan should belong to Japan too.

After WW2, Diayu was under US administration, NOT Japanese, so what to protest? US reverted the administration to japan in 1971/72. That was when China / ROC starting protesting.

Villanueva Jerecho
July 25, 2013 at 06:10

Hello mate! you're a shame to the the thousands of your countrymen who fought and died during WWII fighting the japanese invaders in the jungles of singapore and malaya, i have deep respect to all kangaro jacks (Australians) who died on distant shores defending freedom and liberty. Now that freedom is in danger to be taken away by the expansionist policy of communist china, they need the natural resources of their neighbors in order to satisfy the insatiable needs of their 1.5B mouths to feed. I bet their hungry eyes, are now in focus to your resource rich continent, down under. Its just a matter of time before these slant eyed barbarians are right in your own backyards. Wake up mate! and do your duty, like your brave compatriots did in the last world war, defending the helpless and the weak and championing the cause of freedom.


robert crowson
July 2, 2013 at 03:56

Its best for all to keep cool heads and buy time. Time will ease the pressures of ones next move. The land dragon guards its gold and the sea dragon its pearls.

[...] United States could help bolster the naval aviation capabilities of both navies. The JMSDF has been expanding its number of helicopter carriers, while the ROKN is expanding its fleet of Dokdo-class landing ships, supposedly capable of carrying [...]

[...] US Marines apparently operate ships very similar in many ways to Japan’s Hyuga-class helicopter destroyers [...]

February 17, 2013 at 13:11

And down here in Australia…we shall just laugh ay the antics of of Asian parners/neighbours and wonder who will emerge with any shipping left to transport food and resources to their starving millions/billions. We dont care which naftions supply our children with Playstations… bjut it would appear none of you care which nation will supply your children with clean food.

Down to the Communist China
February 17, 2013 at 12:14

You think ASEAN countries will support the GREED CHINA? in your dream BE WAY, ASEAN will not support bullying and greediness may be your puppet CAMBODIA will support your Green nation. You always used "Inherent" but how come the South China Sea becomes part of your greed nation? when in fact it is far from your country. China becomes so agreesives in taking Spratley and the Scaborough Shour is because they discovered a huge amount of oil reserve in that area when they were given permission by the past president of the Philippines GLORIA AROYO who earns much on the deal. Hey what if the islands have no oil and gas reserve will your greed china still want to get the islands?

February 8, 2013 at 21:48

In a non-nuclear war China stands no chance at present if the USA were to be involved. Of course there would be no land invasion of the Chinese Mainland but the USA, after a day or two at most, would be in complete control of the air and would be able to hit targets on the ground with relative impunity. The USA would also control the sea lanes. Fortunately or hopefully everyone involved realizes that military action would be a disaster, economically, for everyone involved. The only worry that I have is that Chinese military leaders, expecially the younger officers, are spoiling for a fight. Xi Jinping may have his hads full reigning in "his" military officers.

February 4, 2013 at 07:13

The more successful you are the more haters you attract. Looks at these comments, it's easy to figure out which country is on the rise and which country's losers are here expressing their hate to release their frustrations at their own failing society.

A Thai Flower
March 15, 2014 at 01:35


January 27, 2013 at 13:47

Go back to school and study more dude. Lmfao!

January 27, 2013 at 13:45

Well the US will happily arm those subs with nukes once war is declared or maybe right now it's already nuclear armed.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Philippine Army
January 27, 2013 at 12:30

The Scarborough shoal of the Philippine is a good for a patrol operation if japan wanted to use in their exercise their newest state of the art navy ship, in ancient history the Filipino were already traveling to Malaysian in the south and to the chinese mainland in the west of WESTERN PHILIPPINE SEA and some of the shoreline in the mainland was own by the native Filipino because chinese in shoreline were selling their property to the native Filipino from the Philippines…

January 27, 2013 at 12:08

Very well written soft power.

January 27, 2013 at 08:18

Everyone seems so happy to argue who would win in a war, when we should be thinking how to avoid one. The Senkaku/Daiyou islands simply aren't worth the massive cost of a war to all sides.
China's, America's and Japan's economies are all so dependent on each other that war would cripple them all. It would send America and Japan into economic depression, and the Chinese economic growth we're all so used to would be literally stopped overnight.
China has a lot to give the world, but its needless sabre rattling over 3 tiny rocks and some apparent oil reserves just shows how diplomatically immature China still is. The rest of the world looks nervously as China seem intent on starting a war over some insiginificant islands. China should be trying to make friends in the region, and would do a lot more for its economy, people, and international standing by handling this situation in a mature and reasoned fashion as opposed to continual escalations. 
Japan has also fumbled its way through this whole dispute, making error after error that is symptomatic of its deeper internal political problems. Japan should unreservedly apologise for its war time atrocities, and hit the reset button with China- but its incapable of acknowledging historical crimes. If Japan needs any friend right now, in its current economic state, its the largest economy in in the region, and second largest in the world.

January 26, 2013 at 11:27

you are an apologist for being chinese. Why don't you declare yourself white or even japanese, quisling! You are despicable.

SC Lai
January 26, 2013 at 09:38

How do you know the Pro – China are paid then?I believe most of them are non China nationals like myself who are really fed up with western MSM's hypocrisy who keeps bashing China on non issues like Tibet but keep totally silent about Westerners robbing of 3rd world nations' territories like robbing of  Arab land for Israel,Israel robbing of Golan Height.American robbing of Hawaii,Japan robbing of Ryuku and Diaoyu

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