Flat Tops and Short Decks


Izumo’s commissioning on August 6, 2013

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.

“Dead Space” Comes Alive

A perfect example of urban infill, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Nokisaki.com seeks pockets of “dead space” around cities and converts them into short-term rental property.

In Tokyo, where every sliver of land is at a premium, a few feet of unused private property near the front entrance of an apartment building can be used to sell muffins. A patch of storefront space transforms into an ad hoc vegetable stand for a farmer or a consulting space for a fortune-teller.

Those spaces can be reserved at Nokisaki for short periods of time—starting from three hours—and for as little as $15 total.

This is the exact approach that metropolitan areas need to take, and a great boon to small entrepreneurs and other makers. It certainly cuts through the red tape of zoning laws and the like.

Even in the urban context, these microrentals are not an instance of packing in more people like sardines (whether this would work outside of the hypercrowded Tokyo is up for debate), but rather matching supplies of valuable land with those who need it. Just for a little while.


War in the Pacific

I, like just about everyone, am looking forward to HBO’s new miniseries The Pacific. I mean like, really, really psyched; it’s been much too long in the making. But I’m really liking the Hanks-Spielberg team as of late.

Semperpapa at David Bellavia has taken Hanks to town, though, for the latter’s comments on the ‘true’ meaning of war in the Pacific. I responded at the source, but I also think the arguments deserve a full presentation, so here are his, followed by mine:

I was somewhat disappointed by Tom Hank’s simplistic look at what WWII represented for our Nation, when, during an interview, he stated that the reason America wanted to kill the Japanese was because they were different. They looked different, they believed different.
I could even understand that Tom, as a good Liberal, would hold America responsible for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, because after all the American fleet was an “imperialistic” obstacle to the “legitimate” expansionist needs of Japan toward South Eat Asia.
In the interview, Hank points out his latest project wanted to honor the bravery of the American troops

“…but we also wanted to have people say, ‘we didn’t know our troops did that to Japanese people.’”…

I don’t know that Hanks’s opinions, overly simplistic as they are, can be blamed on his liberalism. There weren’t too many alternatives to what we did in either theater. Rather, his misinformation can be attributed to the general American ignorance about the Pacific theater.

Much of whatever vague impressions Americans get of the Pacific are from sources like Dr. Seuss’s wartime propaganda and the various posters attacking “yellow” “Japs.” Which if it’s all you’re getting, definitely paints a one-sided picture.

He’s also not entirely wrong. To a degree much more pronounced than in the ETO, the American war effort dehumanized the Japanese as both a race and a nationality. In Germany, we were fighting Hitler, but in the Pacific we were fighting the Japs. There was a distinct conflation of politics and racism there that was absent from Europe, or at least the western front in Europe. The Pacific shared a viciousness with that life-or-death struggle on the eastern front, where the choices were literally reduced to a binary: victory or death and enslavement.

But I don’t mean to condemn that brutality entirely. In most ways our response was a tit-for-tat regarding Japanese behavior. After enough incidents occurred when surrendering Japanese troops instead carried out the equivalent of a suicide bombing, we stopped taking prisoners. As a tactical solution it was entirely justified. We took no prisoners – but with good reason. See John Dower’s War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War for a fairly deep analysis of the course of the Pacific theater.

Basically, the dehumanization we carried out in the press and other media is being misattributed by Hanks to a cause of the war, rather than the fairly standard wartime practice and response to in-theater events that it was.

And of course, the Japanese behavior speaks for itself.