Japan's geography dictates that it should have a powerful naval presence in the Asia-Pacific region of the world. North Korea is always active in showcasing new wares and China has grown increasingly bold in its South China Sea claims. As such, the Japanese military spends a healthy portion of its defense budget on its navy and, from this investment, has been seen a steady stream of capable warships featuring modern and advanced weaponry to help police territorial claims and keep potential enemies in check.
The Kongo-class guided missile destroyers, lead by JDS Kongo (DDG-173), were ordered in the 1980s and built throughout the 1990s. Kongo's sisters became JDS Kirishima, Myoko and Chokai. Commissioning of these warships spanned from 1993 to 1998 and the line succeeded the Hatakaze-class guided missile destroyers which numbered two and appeared during the 1980s. The Kongo-class is comparable to the American Navy's Arleigh Burke-class ships, though dimensionally larger.
Ordered in 1988, JDS Kongo was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) with her keel laid down on May 8th, 1990. She was launched on September 26th, 1991 and was formally commissioned on March 25th, 1993. The vessel is named after Mount Kongo near Gose, the third Japanese Navy ship to feature the name. Today she forms an important component of the Japanese defense network - ever more so since tensions with China have been running high over the South China Sea area and North Korea is always keen to gain worldwide attention.
As built, JDS Kongo displaces 7,500 tons under standard load and 9,500 tons under full load. She showcases a length of 582 feet, a beam of 69 feet and a draught of 20 feet allowing her to operate in both deep and offshore environments. Installed power is comprised of 4 x Ishikawajima Harima (General Electric) LM2500-30 gas turbines developing 100,000 horsepower to 2 x shafts. This provides the vessel with speeds nearing 30 knots in ideal conditions and an operational range out to 5,200 miles when cruising at about 20 knots. Her crew complement numbers 300 officers and enlisted personnel.
JDS Kongo is classified as a "guided missile destroyer" which means she holds an advanced battery of missile weapons and the sensors/processing systems aboard. Her armament suite is also multi-purpose in that the warship can scan, track and engage aerial, surface, inland and underwater threats as needed - such is her design flexibility. She also carries conventional weaponry for close-range work.
The armament fit of the warship is led by a 90-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) comprised of a 29-cell section at the forecastle and a 61-cell section towards the stern. These are cleared to fire the SM-2MR (RIM-66 Standard), SM-3 and RUM-139 series missiles. The SM-2MR is an anti-aircraft weapon while the SM-3 is an anti-ballistic missile weapon. The RUM-139 carries the acronym of "ASROC", detailed as "Anti-Submarine ROCket". Kongo is also outfitted with a pair of RGM-84 "Harpoon" Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) launchers near midships. Beyond this missile weaponry are the more conventionally-minded 5" (127mm) /54 caliber OTO-Breda turreted deck gun (over the forecastle) and 2 x 20mm Phalanx digital Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs).
Sensors and processing systems include the RCA AN/SPY-1D, 3D system, the JRC OPS-28D surface search radar, the NEC OQS-102 (SQS-53B/C) series bow-mounted sonar unit and the Melco NOLQ-2 intercept/jammer system. The passive towed sonar array is the Oki OQR-2 TACTASS. The JRC OPS-20 is used for navigation.
Her profile features a forward bridge superstructure (slab-sided for stealth) and a lattice-style main mast towering over the vessel. Smoke funnels are divided between two low-profile, fully-enclosed structures near midships. The aft funnels are integrated with the aft superstructure. The stern section has a helipad that supports the launching and retrieval of a helicopter - typically the American Sikorsky SH-60K series. This aircraft also provides the vessel with an "over-the-horizon" view and carries its own anti-ship/anti-submarine capabilities.
One of the more notable traits of JDS Kongo is her being the first warship outside of the United States to feature the advanced "AEGIS" Ballistic Missile Defense System, giving protection against incoming missile threats. The system works in conjunction with the intercept missiles carried by the ship as well as the AN/SPY-1 radar fit. The SM-2 and SM-3 missile family are both designed to take advantage of the AEGIS system to varying degrees and a first-test (successful) of the arrangement was had in December of 2007.
On August 3rd, 2016, regional neighbor North Korea tested a new missile weapon that landed within 600 miles of Japan catching Japanese authorities somewhat off guard. As only three AEGIS-equipped destroyers can be deployed by the Japanese Navy at any one time, this makes the Kongo a very special, and utterly important, warship in today's testy environment. At least three of her class would be needed to provide maximum protection for the Japanese mainland from a large scale North Korean missile attack.