On August 6, 2013, Japan unveiled its largest warship since World War II, an 814-foot-long, 19,500-ton flattop capable of carrying 14 helicopters, according to media reports, and is now the lead ship of the Izumo-class for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Class & type: Izumo, helicopter carrier
Displacement: 19,500 long tons (19,800 t) standard;
27,000 long tons (27,000 t) full load
Length: 248 meters (814 feet)
Beam: 38 meters (125 feet)
Speed: more than 30 knots (35 mph; 56 km/h)
Load: 14 helicopters
Known as the JDS Izumo (coded as DDH-183), the ship is classified as a helicopter destroyer—which might confuse some considering it has a nice flattop that makes one think it looks like a groovy aircraft carrier. But... it does not have catapults for launching fighter jets, nor does it have a "ski-jump" ramp on its flight deck for fixed-wing aircraft launches.
But the Japanese Defense Ministry says the ship is not intended to be used as an aircraft carrier and will not be used to launch fighter jets… and despite these assurances, it isn't very comforting to China who suspect that the ship could be modified into an aircraft carrier and used against them.
The way things stand now, however, the current Japan Constitution states that Japan's military forces can only take part in defensive roles… so are China's concerns 'misguided'?
Perhaps not, as Japan is looking to rewrite its Constitution to give itself greater autonomy and the ability to form its own army et al to handle any crisis as it sees fit. Defensive and offensive.
And, in case it matters, the Izumo was launched on the 68th anniversary Hiroshima being lit up with an atomic bomb blast. What do you think... kind of an eff-you implying that no one is going to beat Japan again?
Built at a cost of $1.2-billion and displacing water at the Yokohama Dockyards, call it what you will, but the Izumo is a warship, and its delivery also "coincides" with the increased military tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands—known as Senkaku by the Japanese and as Daioyu by China—in the East China Sea.
What I find amusing is that some media reports suggest that the reason for wanting these islands has something to do with them being near:
- important shipping lanes;
- rich fishing grounds;
- possible mineral deposits.
Sure those are part of the official reason—possible mineral deposits??!!—but possession of the islands actually extends a country's zone of protectable waters… keeping the international waters farther away.
That means one's warships or an airbase could be stationed closer to another country's territory… which makes it easier to scramble to action and spy on (or the more politically correct 'keep tabs on').
China is not stupid.
It wants those islands to have a closer foothold to be nearer the US military base in Okinawa… and Japan isn't stupid - it knows this. Or perhaps like any country or person… no one likes to share or give up what they believe belongs to them.
Says China's Defense Ministry (not a person, but the whole Ministry) via the Global Times: "We are concerned over Japan's constant expansion of its military equipment. Japan's Asian neighbors and the international community need to be highly vigilant about this trend.
"Japan should learn from history, adhere to its policy of self-defense and abide by its promise to take the road of peaceful development."
Peaceful development? Says the country that historically invented gunpowder and built up walls (There are two separate components to the singularly-written Great Wall of China) to not only keep invaders out, but to keep its populace in.
I also love the part about where Japan should learn from its history. Does China mean the history including the atomic bombings and later, or the parts before the bombings where it was a feared terror attempting to conquer—and successfully invading and occupying China?
The China of 2013 surely has nothing to fear from Japan. China could wipe Japan off the face of the globe many times over if it wanted to.
Anyhow... that's the problem with history… it's usually written by the winners, and re-written by everyone else when they find the current version inconvenient.
Just as the United States wanted to prove its strength as a viable new world-power in the 1800s with its aggressive stance around the globe (and insistence that Japan parlay with them), so too is China being aggressive… and now with a hawk of a prime minister, so too is Japan.
In my opinion, war is inevitable… either in words or in dirty deeds. Cooler heads will be required to find common ground, but I think that would have to be a third-party negotiator…
Anyhow… enough preaching… if the name Izumo sounds familiar, this was not the first such Japanese boat dubbed Izumo.
The first Izumo was launched on September 19, 1898 and sunk by an air attack at the end of WWII on July 24, 1945… it was raised and eventually scrapped in 1947.
Unlike the new ship, the older one was built by Armstrong Whitworth of Great Britain - gaijins!
Lastly… if you are a fanboy geek of Japanese anime, you will also be aware that the Izumo-class battleship is a ship in the Cosmic Era timeline of the Gundam series.
Andrew "Country" Joseph & The Fish