The modern Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) fields two equally-modern, conventionally-powered helicopter carriers built to the Izumo-class standard. These are JS Izumo (DDH-183) and JS Kaga (DDH-184). Both are designed to field up to twenty-eight total aircraft by typically field a collection of nine helicopters outfitted with special mission gear for the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Search-And-Rescue (SAR) roles. Both are in active service as of this writing.
The class was developed at the turn of the century to provide the Navy service with a regional deterrent amidst the rise of neighboring China and continued belligerence by North Korea. Construction spanned from 2012 to 2017 with Kaga's keel laid down on October 7th, 2013 at the Kure shipyard of Hiroshima by the builders of Japan Marine United. The vessel was launched on August 27th, 2015 and officially commissioned into service on March 22nd, 2017.
The pair represent the largest surface fighting vessels available to the JMSDF. Kaga is named after the IJN Kaga aircraft carrier of the Second World War (1939-1945). This vessel launched aircraft against the America port at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. The Americans got their revenge when the carrier was targeted and sunk in June of 1942 during the Battle of Midway.
Kaga has an empty displacement of 21,500 tons (US Short) with a full load displacement reaching 27,800 tons. The bow-to-stern measurement is 814 feet with a beam of 125 feet and a draught of 25 feet. Internally, power is from a COmbined Gas-And-Gas (COGAG) arrangement giving the vessel a straight-line speed of over 30 knots in ideal conditions. The propulsion fit is 4 x IHI (General Electric) LM2500IEC marine gas turbines driving 2 x Shafts under stern.
The Kaga carries the OYQ-12 combat direction system as well as OPS-50 Active, Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar and the FCS-3 series Fire Control System (FCS). The OPS-28 unit fulfills the surface-search radar role and the OQQ-23 is the bow-mounted sonar fit. The NOLQ-3D-1 is the installed Electronic Warfare (EW) suite. Mark 36 SRBOC decoys are also carried by the ship as is a "Floating Acoustic Jammer" (FAJ) and anti-torpedo MObile Decoy (MOD).
Armament is strictly self-defensive in nature, made up of 2 x SeaRAM and 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs). The SeaRAM is an evolution of the Phalanx and carries an 11-cell Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) pack.
The vessel's profile is traditional with the island superstructure offset to starboard side. This leaves portside, the stern and the bow sections clear of obstructions to launch and retrieve medium-lift helicopter types. The flight deck can support up to five active helicopters simultaneously (inline). The internal make up of the carrier allows it to steadily support an amphibious operation offshore: up to fifty military trucks (or the equivalent in armored amphibious combat vehicles) can be hauled to the combat zone as well as up to 400 combat-ready personnel ready to hit the beaches (by way of landing craft). Beyond this, the vessel can undertake its given ASW and SAR roles as needed as well as participate in humanitarian and deterrent actions.
The Kaga, and her sister Izumo, are key figures in the battle against China to control the strategic waterways of the South China Sea.
December 2018 - It has been announced that Izumo and sister-ship Kaga will be modified to accept the launching and retrieval of the F-35B Lightning II strike fighter. Japan has contracted for forty-two of the B-model aircraft which have an inherent Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capability lacking in the F-35A models. This will provide the Navy service with an at-sea aircraft capability lacking since the dark days of World War 2 (1939-1945).
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