The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo, the lead vessel of the new 27,000-ton Izumo-class, arrived in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam on May 20 to participate in a major international naval exercise.
The Izumo-class helicopter carrier–euphemistically classified as a helicopter destroyer by the JMSDF to downplay the ship’s warfighting capabilities—, along with ships and personnel from Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, is taking part in this year’s U.S.-led Pacific Partnership (PP17) mission, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) preparedness exercise conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.
For Vietnam, it is the eighth time since the exercise’s inception in 2007 that it has been hosting the multilateral drill. While there, Pacific Partnership personnel will participate in civil engineering projects and exchange expertise with military medical staff. Furthermore, Pacific Partnership and Vietnamese personnel will conduct a subject matter expert exchange for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) workshop that culminates in a field training exercise.
Once of the primary objectives of PP17 is improve the coast guard capabilities of ASEAN members.
While anchored at Cam Ranh Bay, the JS Izumo’s state-of-the-art medical facilities were shown to media representatives. Next to the JS Izumo, the guided-missile and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) Takanami-class destroyer JS Sazanami is also taking part in the drill. Prior, to PP17, the JS Izumo concluded a passing exercise (PASSEX) with a U.S. Navy warship in the South China Sea last week. Prior to that, the helicopter carrier and its escort were present at the International Maritime Defense Exhibition (IMDEX) in Singapore.
Earlier in the month, the JS Izumo and JS Sazanami escorted a U.S. Navy supply ship off the coast of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture to the Shikoku region in western Japan. This was the “first time that Japan has issued an order to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) to protect assets of an ally since new security legislation — the so-called Permanent International Peace Support Law and the Legislation for Peace and Security — was enacted by the Upper House of the Japanese Diet in 2015 and came into force in March 2016,” I explained.
Following PP17, the Japanese carrier and its escort will make port calls in Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining this year’s trilateral India-U.S.-Japan Malabar naval exercise, which will take place in the Indian Ocean in July. It will be interesting to see whether Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit the warship when it docks at the Subic Bay naval base next month given his newfound affinity for China. Japan is providing the Philippines with patrol vessels and maritime surveillance aircraft. Both nations also concluded an agreement on defense equipment and technology transfer last year.