U.S. President Donald Trump has been invited to tour the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo, the lead ship of the Izumo-class, during his visit to Japan next month, Japanese government sources told Kyodo news agency last week.
Trump would be the first U.S. president to visit the Izumo-class helicopter carrier – euphemistically classified as a helicopter destroyer by the JMSDF to downplay the ship’s warfighting capabilities. The carrier was commissioned in March 2015. The Izumo “is a ship that symbolizes Japan-U.S. defense cooperation and Japan’s defense capabilities,” a Japanese government source said in connection to Trump’s possible visit.
The JS Izumo is part of the JMSDF’s Escort Flotilla 1, based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, which is also home to the U.S. Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. Trump’s visit is scheduled for November 5 to 7, during which he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Emperor Akahito, next to other officials. It is still unclear when or if he will visit the Izumo in Yokosuka.
The JS Izumo, along with its recently commissioned sister ship JS Kaga, is the biggest surface warship to be operated by the JMSDF since the end of World War II. While the vessel is a multipurpose warship and can be deployed for surveillance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, it is also one of the JMSDF’s most sophisticated anti-submarine warfare fighting platforms.
Among other things, the JS Izumo can carry Japan’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare helicopters. “The ship is designed to accommodate up to 14 helicopters (seven Mitsubishi-built SH-60k ASW helicopters and seven Agusta Westland MCM-101 mine countermeasure helicopters), five of which can simultaneously take off and land, given the Izumo’s large flight deck and five landing spots,” I explained previously.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte became the first head of state to inspect the JS Izumo during a JMSDF good-will visit to the Philippines in June. British Prime Minister Theresa May toured the ship at its home port of Yokosuka during her visit to Japan in August.
This May, the Izumo and another JMSDF warship made history as it escorted a U.S. Navy ship off the Japanese coast. It was the “first time that Japan has issued an order to the [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.