This weekend, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) displayed its naval power during a fleet review involving 50 vessels and 61 aircraft in Sagami Bay off Yokosuka, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Tokyo, The Japan Times reports.
Japan’s navy used the review to showcase its latest hardware including carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. Vessels from India, South Korea, Australia, France and the United States also participated in the event. 10, 000 Japanese citizens won tickets to observe the naval parade aboard JMSDF vessels.
This year’s review marked the 28th iteration of the event first re-introduced in 1957 (the original fleet review first took place in 1868) and held every three years since then. In 2012, 45 vessels, 30 aircraft and around 8,000 sailors participated in the martial display in addition to three foreign ships.
The 2015 fleet review’s uncontested highlight was the participation of the helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), the largest surface combatant in the Japanese fleet. Commissioned in March 2015, the 248-meter-long carrier displaces 27,000 tons when fully loaded and can carry up to 14 helicopters. (The vessel could also potentially carry fixed-wing aircraft.)
As I reported in March (See: “Japan’s New Helicopter Carrier: Bad News for Chinese Subs”), the new carrier’s principal task is anti-submarine warfare and command-and-control operations to protect Japanese territories in the East China Sea.
Furthermore, the review featured sub hunting airplanes dropping depth charges as well as an acrobatic flight team.
The nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft-carrier Ronald Reagan, which replaced the USS George Washington at Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture on October 1st, along with two other U.S. vessels— the cruiser USS Chancellorsville and guided missile destroyer USS Mustin, also participated in the review.
In a first ever for a Japanese leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went aboard the Ronald Reagan and was taken around for a tour by the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, Vice Admiral Nora Tyson. Shinzo Abe called the USS Ronald Reagan a “symbol of the ties between Japan and the United States, which engaged in Operation Tomodachi after the (March 2011) Great East Japan Earthquake.”
Japan’s Prime Minister was accompanied on the tour by Taro Aso, who is both deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani. Abe referred to the USS Ronald Reagan as “a tomodachi (friend) who rushed to the rescue at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake. I give it a hearty welcome.”
Speaking earlier on board the Shirane-class destroyer, Kurama, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “threats can easily come by crossing borders. A country can no longer protect itself on its own.”
“By highly hoisting the flag of ‘proactive pacifism,’ I’m determined to contribute more than ever to world peace and prosperity,” Abe stated, while urging the thousands of Japanese servicemen and servicewomen to “further fulfill” their duties “in order to hand over to children a warless and peaceful Japan,” The Wall Street Journal reports.