Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Far East Naval Buildup

Apparently the People's Republic of China is not the only nation in the far east building up their navy; Japan has laid down their first aircraft carrier since the Second World War.

This would allow the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force the ability to protect their Sea Lines Of Communication further from their shores and support fleet operations maintaining the freedom of same.

Although referred to as a DDH, a helicopter carrying destroyer, this I believe is a first step back to operating aircraft carriers that could allow them to project power in Western Pacific.

From Global Security:

Mention of a light aircraft carrier was first made in the 2001-2005 National Defense Buildup Program Outline (Mid-term Program) that was approved by the Cabinet in December 2000. According to a designer's concept shown by the agency in December 2000, the vessel's bridge was located amidships to bisect the flight deck-a ship design that was effectively identical to its predecessor. But when it became time for the fiscal 2004 budget request in August 2003, the agency came up with a completely new drawing, which showed the bridge on starboard to create a through deck-a design of none other than an aircraft carrier. The agency, however, insists that since this vessel is just an expanded model of any conventional flagship DDH, it ought to be categorized as such.

The fiscal 2004 defence budget gave the JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Defence Force) the largest warship Japan has had since the disappearance of its Imperial Navy. Projected to be built starting in 2004 was a 13,500-ton helicopter destroyer (DDH) code-named 16DDH (16 as in the 16th year of the Heisei emperor in the Japanese calendar), with another planned for 2005. The 16DDH in JSDF classification is by no means an aircraft carrier. Its characteristic shape, however, is nothing but. Having a displacement of about 20,000 tons when equipment and fuel are counted in, they essentially can be classified as light aircraft carriers. It is temporizing to refer to this type of vessel as a DD (destroyer). There has never been a destroyer that exceeded 10,000 tons.

It is almost as large as the Imperial Japanese Navy's Tone class heavy cruisers. It matches in size modern small aircraft carriers as Italy's MM Giuseppe Garibaldi (10,100 tons) and Spain's Principe de Asturia (17,188 tons). In terms of displacement, the two destroyers -- not nuclear-powered -- will be in the class of Britain's Invincible, a 20,600-ton light flattop, when they are fully loaded with fuel.

Looking at it from a view from Japan's porch e.g. territorial disputes with grudges on both sides going back a thousand years if not longer, I would want to build up a force to keep aggressors away as well.

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