Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Japan; the Silent Big Man

Sticking for another day on WESTPAC, Kyle Mizokami over at TheNationalInterest has a good reminder that, small % of GDP on defense, Constitutional barriers, economic structural weaknesses, and demographic collapse do not stand in the way of a simple fact; Japan packs more punch per capita than anyone else in WESTPAC;
The best navy in Asia has a total of 114 warships and 45,800 volunteer personnel. It has a large fleet of fast, powerful destroyers, thoroughly modern diesel-electric attack submarines, and amphibious ships that can haul tanks and other ground forces. It can hunt submarines, square off against invasion fleets, and shoot down enemy ballistic missiles.
The main component of the MSDF are its fleet of forty-six destroyers and frigates—more than that those fielded by the United Kingdom and France combined.
The most powerful of Japan’s surface combatants are the Kongo class of guided-missile destroyers. The four ships—Kongo, Kirishima, Myoko and Chokai—are all named after battleships and cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, a practice once generally avoided but becoming more popular as the memory of World War II fades.
It also provides a national ballistic-missile defense system for all of Japan—just two Kongos can protect most of the country.
Another formidable Japanese ship is the JS Izumo. At twenty-seven thousand tons fully loaded and more than eight hundred feet long, Izumo has a full-length flight deck, an island for controlling flight operations, aircraft elevators and a hangar that spans the length of the ship.

While that sounds like a traditional aircraft carrier, Japan insists the ship is actually a “helicopter destroyer.” Izumo can’t carry fixed-wing fighter jets but it can carry up to fourteen helicopters. These helicopters and their missions can vary, from antisubmarine warfare to minesweeping to helicopter airmobile assault. This makes the Izumo a flexible platform capable of taking on a variety of tasks. A second ship of the class, Kaga, is currently under construction.
Recognize that name? Of course you do;
Kaga (加賀?) was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and was named after the former Kaga Province in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture.
...After bombarding American forces on Midway Atoll, Kaga and three other IJN carriers were attacked by American aircraft from Midway and the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. Dive bombers from Enterprise severely damaged Kaga; when it became obvious she could not be saved, she was scuttled by Japanese destroyers to prevent her from falling into enemy hands.
Spin and PR is one thing, but operational performance is another. Anyone who has worked with the Japanese military or been stationed in Japan know they are a serious naval power. For those that don't have first hand experience, I like this datapoint;
One final reason why Japan’s navy is the best in Asia? On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan. Vice Admiral Hiromi Takashima, commandant of the Yokosuka Naval District, immediately assumed temporary command of the entire MSDF and ordered all available ships north to the earthquake zone. The first ship left just forty-five minutes after the earthquake. Another seventeen ships packed with relief supplies departed within eighteen hours, some with only partially recalled crews. This ability to rapidly sortie the fleet with virtually no notice was perhaps the true test of the MSDF’s professionalism and efficiency.


W2 said...

I can see KAGA from my office window and she is a beautiful ship. We get the KONGO and ATAGA class from time to time. Their MURASAME class DD's are very capable. They also have, arguably, the best submarines in WESTPAC too in the SORYU class. Their sailors are well trained and very professional mariners.

Earl Tower said...

It is that very competency and professionalism of the Japanese naval forces that gives me some hope for the US Navy to hold its own if China ever does become hostile in the West Pacific. The Chinese navy would have quite a few concerns with the US Navy , but adding the Japanese forces into the mix, and we might be looking at adequate deterrence to keep a shooting war from starting.