Japan unveiled its biggest warship since World War II on Tuesday, a $1.2 billion helicopter carrier aimed at defending territorial claims.
The move drew criticism from regional rival China, which accused its neighbor of “constant” military expansion.
The ceremony to showcase the 248-meter (810-feet) vessel came as Shinzo Abe’s conservative government, which took office last December, considers ditching the nation’s pacifist constitution and beefing up the military.
Japan plans to use the helicopter carrier, named Izumo and expected to go into service in 2015, to defend territorial claims following maritime skirmishes with China, which has demonstrated its own military ambitions in recent years.
This is via Nick Prime, who points out the theoretical possibility of fielding the F-35 on these. (Here’s another story).
Which, honestly, is what I thought was basically the only thing keeping the B variant alive. It’s not just the USMC that needs a VTOL-capable aircraft (or in the case of the JSF, “aircraft”), but a lot of our allies and partners in the region who have been investing in flattops like these (see: HMAS Canberra, ROKS Dokdo, etc.) with the possibility of flying such planes off of them. Even the Europeans are getting in on it – the French have a pretty good platform in the Mistral class, hence the brouhaha over the Russian acquisition of four of them.
And in that case, there had better be an aircraft that can use the short-decks. I mean, helicopters are great and all, but if we’re going to at least play bluewater navy and accept that power projection via the aircraft carrier is still a) relevant, and b) desirable, then doing it on the cheap is probably the best compromise. At this point you might as well assume that you’re going to lose them, so why not go for the more basic version? The Marines probably aren’t thrilled about a CAS aircraft that’s only 80% better than its predecessor (though certainly more than 80% more costly), but the key is that it’s not just for them. Our friends are getting in the game, and that’s not a bad thing.
Anyways, it is nice to see the JMSDF get a new flagship (that’s how they determine them, right? The biggest?). And one whose name has an interesting history, too.
UPDATE: Kyle Mizokami, as usual, has written excellent words on the Izumo. Short version: Japan’s going to have to go big or go home.