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Australia Lists Japan’s Mogami Class as 1 of 4 Contenders for Its Next Frigate

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Australia Lists Japan’s Mogami Class as 1 of 4 Contenders for Its Next Frigate

The JMSDF chief praised the move as “a sign of the high trust and evaluation” of Japanese defense equipment.

Australia Lists Japan’s Mogami Class as 1 of 4 Contenders for Its Next Frigate

The Mogami, name ship of its class, arrives at Yokosuka, Japan, May 9, 2022.

Credit: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

As part of strengthening the Royal Australian Navy’s surface combat fleet capability, Australia is planning to build a new general-purpose frigate. Now the Albanese government has listed the Mogami-class frigate of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) as one of the four candidates for the navy’s next frigate, with the other three vessels being selected from Spain, Germany, and South Korea.

In response, Admiral Sakai Ryo, chief of staff of the JMSDF, praised this move.

“Australia has announced that, as a maritime nation, it will strengthen the capabilities of its surface fleet and contribute to an open and stable maritime order as it recognizes that the regional strategic environment is becoming increasingly difficult,” Sakai said at a press conference on March 6.

“Japan and Australia share fundamental values and strategic interests, and we highly value the RAN’s surface combatant fleet review as an extremely important initiative for Australia to contribute to play a further role in regional peace and stability,” he said, adding “the JMSDF intends to actively exchange opinions with the RAN.”

Asked about the Mogami-class frigate being mentioned as a candidate for the next generation of frigates in the RAN’s reorganization plan, Sakai said, “We believe that Australia has picked frigates from these countries based on its own information. The fact that the Mogami class was selected as a candidate is a sign of the high level of trust and evaluation of Japanese equipment.”

Tokyo has maintained a policy of pacifism since the end of World War II and has almost no record of exporting lethal defense equipment, Thus, the latest development came like a bolt out of the blue, surprising many Japanese.

On February 20, the Australian government released an independent analysis report on the RAN’s surface combatant fleet capability, in response to the recommendations of Australia’s 2023 Defense Strategic Review published last April.

Most notably, the report lists Germany’s MEKO A-200, Japan’s Mogami-class frigate built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, South Korea’s Daegu-class FFX Batch II and III, and Spain’s Navantia ALFA 3000 as candidates for the RAN’s next general-purpose frigate.

The Australian government “has directed these ships be acquired rapidly with an established international shipbuilding partner through a hybrid offshore then onshore build strategy, transitioning to the consolidated Henderson shipyard in Western Australia,” the report said. 

“Four platforms have been identified by the independent analysis as exemplars to form the basis of a selection process for this new general purpose frigate,” the report added.

Australia plans to acquire 11 new general purpose frigates to complement the country’s combat-ready fleet of warships by replacing the eight aging Anzac-class frigates commissioned in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Mogami-class frigate, also known as 30FFM, is the JMSDF’s stealthy multi-mission frigate, intended for surveillance missions in waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago, including the East China Sea. According to the JMSDF, this frigate class is equipped with enhanced multirole capabilities, including the ability to conduct anti-mine warfare operations, which until now have been performed by the JMSDF’s ocean-going minesweepers.

The Mogami-class ships, each of which is capable of embarking one helicopter as well as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), will also be equipped with a vertical launch system (VLS) and an unmanned surface vehicle (USV), both of which will see the first installment on any Japanese frigate ever.

The JMSDF had originally planned to build a total of 22 Mogami-class frigates as Tokyo ramps up efforts to strengthen the country’s naval forces. However, it has decided to now procure a total of only 12 such frigates until the current fiscal year 2023, with plans to acquire a new class of 12 FFMs from 2024 until 2028. The new frigates will essentially be improved Mogami-class ships that are set to be built to the design proposed by MHI.

The Japanese Defense Ministry said the new-class FFM will be fitted with longer-range missiles, enhanced anti-submarine capabilities, and improved capabilities for various maritime operations. With better anti-aircraft and search capabilities, the new FFM may become closer to an FFG (missile frigate).

Thus, there is a strong possibility the Australian government will seek the new FFM rather than the current Mogami-class vessels, because the former will have a larger and more lethal surface combatant capability.

For now, nothing is finalized. Japan was also in the running for a $40 billion deal to build Australia’s new class of submarines, based on the JMSDF’s Soryu-class vessels; however, Australia chose to work with France instead, apparently catching Tokyo off-guard. Eventually, even the deal with France was scrapped, as Australia opted to pursue nuclear-powered submarines under its AUKUS partnership with the United Kingdom and United States.