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In the picture, the Japanese Self-Defense Force officially opened the carrier era.

On November 27th, Japanese Defense Minister Iwaya said that the destroyer of the Maritime Self-Defense Force will be converted into an aircraft carrier and is planned to be equipped with the F-35B vertical take-off and landing stealth fighter. Kyodo News reported that the program will be written into the new revised version of the defense plan.

Since the Izumo was launched, all kinds of speculations and doubts about Japan's aircraft carrier have not stopped, and Japan has always been obscured in the development of aircraft carriers. With the official statement of Iwatani, the other boots finally landed. Once the Eiyun No. has been modified and equipped with the F-35B stealth fighter, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will fully possess the ocean-going offensive and defensive capabilities, thus opening up the Japanese aircraft carrier era after World War II, and its practical significance and future impact will be far-reaching.

Blind-eye method from helicopter destroyer to aircraft carrier

Izumo is a Izo-class helicopter destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. It was launched in August 2013 and has a total construction cost of 120 billion yen (about 7.5 billion yuan). It was the largest warship of the Maritime Self-Defense Force at that time. The ship has a total length of 248 meters, a width of 38 meters, a standard displacement of 19,500 tons, a full displacement of 27,000 tons, and can carry up to 14 helicopters. It can realize the simultaneous take-off and landing of five helicopters and provide fuel supply for other ships.

Isaiah's ship-borne helicopters mainly include the SH-60 Seahawks anti-submarine helicopter, the MCH-101 multi-purpose transport aircraft, and the UH-60 Blackhawk General Helicopter, the UH-1 Huey General Helicopter and the V-22 Osprey. Tilting rotary wing conveyors, etc. Since the same name as the Izumo's armored cruiser of the old Japanese Navy before World War II, the Izumo has attracted widespread attention from the water.

On January 11, 2014, the Japanese Defense Ministry said that in order to strengthen the defense forces of the islands near Okinawa, it was decided to systematically renovate the Iseyun helicopter destroyer to be commissioned, making it a unified force for the self-defense force. Commanding the frontline command.

The Ministry of Defense plans to set up a command center in the Izumo, install a communication system that can be compatible with and command the three self-defense forces, and send and receive information streams such as amphibious islands, transport ships and air support platforms in real time. The three self-defense forces cooperated. The Ministry of Defense also hopes to equip the I-go with the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft in the next five years, making it a function of both the island commander and the largest support ship. Since the post-2014 defense plan outlines the formation of a amphibious island-defending unit, that is, the water and land mobile group, it was widely believed that the cloud number is likely to become the command ship for the self-defense team to implement the amphibious island warfare.

In March 2015, the Izumo helicopter destroyer was officially in service. In March 2017, the sister ship Kaga of the Izumo was officially in service. The two warships are fully equipped with the characteristics of a light aircraft carrier in terms of appearance and design. The Eiyun-class adopts a carrier-type full-pass flight deck with heavy-duty lifts and a large hangar that can carry up to 14 Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters. It can even take off and land the F-35B fighter after the slide deck is installed. It is a standard configuration of the aircraft carrier. The outside world agrees that the cloud level is a helicopter carrier or even a light aircraft carrier.

However, the Japanese official has positioned the cloud as a helicopter destroyer. The reason why the Japanese government wants to cover up is mainly based on two points: First, circumventing legal restrictions. The Japanese Peace Constitution does not allow the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to equip attack-type aircraft carriers. The positioning of helicopter destroyers can avoid legality issues. The Ministry of Defense has always argued that the cloud-level does not have the function of a take-off and landing fighter, and does not belong to an attacking aircraft carrier; the second is to dilute the influence of public opinion. The development of aircraft carriers is likely to cause uneasiness in neighboring countries. The title of helicopter destroyers has played down the threat color from the perspective of media communication. In fact, Japan has also adopted this strategy of darkness and stagnation in the development of the big and the gradual level.

On the issue of converting the Izumo to an aircraft carrier, the Japanese government is worried that it will violate its special defense policy and was once prepared to abandon its writing into the new version of the defense plan. However, in the end, it is believed that the aircraft carrier is indispensable in strengthening the air defense and the defense forces of the southwestern islands in the Pacific Ocean without a base. In May of this year, the ruling Japanese Liberal Democratic Party officially proposed to change the Evian destroyer to a multi-purpose mothership in the amendment of the Outline of the Defense Plan, and plans to introduce the F-35B fighter aircraft for use with it.

How F-35B mixes with the cloud level

At the press conference of the day, Iwaya said that the modified aircraft carrier could be equipped with the F-35B stealth fighter, and the Japanese side is studying, suggesting that the fighter might be introduced. It is reported that the Japanese Defense Ministry has examined the feasibility of the F-35B taking off and landing on the Izumo, and concluded that if the modification is implemented, it can take off and land.

The F-35B fighter is the fifth-generation multi-purpose fighter in the United States. It can achieve short-distance take-off and vertical landing. It can be applied to amphibious assault ships that are narrower than ordinary aircraft carrier decks. According to the Japan Economic News website on November 27, the Japanese government is considering purchasing another 100 F-35 fighter jets from the United States, with a unit price of about 10 billion yen, totaling more than 1 trillion yen ($8.81 billion). In addition to the 42 aircraft currently being introduced, the F-35 owned by Japan is expected to increase to 142 in the future. Among the newly purchased 100 F-35Bs, Japan hopes to include about 20 F-35Bs that can be used on aircraft carriers to equip two IUD-class helicopter destroyers. The plan will be written into the Medium-Term Defense Force Maintenance Plan (2019-2023) and will be adopted at the Japan Cabinet meeting in mid-December with the newly revised Defense Program Outline.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense has plans to upgrade the ESR to an aircraft carrier for inclusion in the 2019 defense budget. If it goes well, we will see that the cloud number is equipped with the F-35B and turned into a real aircraft carrier. In 2020, it officially joined the operational sequence of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, which made the Maritime Self-Defense Force's ocean-going and aviation combat capabilities fundamental. leap.

Having an aircraft carrier is the dream of the Japanese government and the Maritime Self-Defense Force. For decades, it has built anti-submarine destroyers and quasi-aircraft carriers with large flight decks, such as the White Root, Dagu, Sun, and Izu, in a step-by-step manner. In particular, the cloud-level design has the iconic features of an island-type island, a full-pass flight deck, a large hangar, a lifting platform, and an aviation fuel tank. It can be said to be a pre-prepared aircraft carrier.

By benefiting from the time-lapse of design, and the F-35B stealth fighter can take off and land vertically, Japan does not need to make subversive adjustments to the cloud-level hull structure, and it is technically difficult to convert to an aircraft carrier. Not big. The main modification should be to increase the sliding flight deck and the corresponding counterweight of the ship to meet the requirements of the short takeoff of the F-35B fighter. At the main aircraft take-off and landing points, it is also necessary to enhance the flight deck strength and lay heat-resistant materials to prevent the high-temperature tail flame ejecting deck from the F-35B fighter jet. In addition, the cloud level also needs to be equipped with an air command and dispatch system, a maintenance device for the F-35B fighter, and a storage and transportation device for improving aviation ammunition. All of this is not difficult for Japan, which has first-class shipbuilding and material manufacturing capabilities.

However, due to the limited volume of the cloud-level hangar, even after modification and upgrade, it can only carry 8~10 F-35B fighters, which greatly restricts its aviation strike capability. At the same time, due to the limited length of the egress-class deck, even with the sliding deck, it is only possible to take off the F-35B, a short-range take-off and landing fixed-wing aircraft, which cannot be equipped with a fixed-wing ship-borne early warning aircraft. The overall combat power has been greatly reduced.

Intention to create an expeditionary attack group with both offense and defense

The Japanese Constitution does not allow Japan to have attack aircraft carriers, as well as offensive weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range strategic bombers. The previous Japanese government has basically adhered to the principle of special defense. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Japanese government plans to locate the modified Izumo as a defensive aircraft carrier in the name of island defense. In fact, having an aircraft carrier has no substantive significance for Japan's island defense, and the so-called defensive aircraft carrier is just another lie. Its real intention is to further get rid of the principle of special defense.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party's National Defense Commission, Sato Masahiro, said that the Japanese government's next plan is to refit two out-of-cloud destroyers and build one, with a total of three, aiming to eventually form an expedition. The Japanese government also plans to introduce nine E-2D Hawkeye early warning aircraft from the United States, which is the standard equipment of the US aircraft carrier. It can be seen that the modification of the aircraft-class aircraft carrier is only the last article of Japan's breakthrough of the carrier's taboo. The construction of the large and medium-sized aircraft carrier is the ultimate goal of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, thus transforming the Maritime Self-Defense Force into an aggressive sea force. This is a high degree of vigilance in the surrounding countries.

In fact, in recent years, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force has been continually strengthening the construction of equipment, and has made every effort to build the four beams and eight pillars of the expeditionary aircraft carrier strike group. In November 2017, the Xianglong, the No. 10 boat of the Canglong class submarine, was officially launched, increasing the number of conventional submarines in Japan to 19. There are currently two other Canglong class submarines under construction.

In addition to the Izumo and Kaga, the Maritime Self-Defense Force also has two Sun-class helicopter destroyers with all-pass decks, the Sunroute and the Ise. As far as marine anti-missile equipment is concerned, the Maritime Self-Defense Force currently has four King Kong-class and two Aegis-class Aegis destroyers, and two new Aegis destroyers are under construction and are expected to be officially put into use after 2020. Japan also plans to build eight new destroyers in the next four years to strengthen Japan's island defense capabilities.

At the fifth meeting of the Security and Defense Forces Symposium held on November 20th, the Japanese government disclosed part of the outline of the new version of the Defense Plan. The outline will deal with the island attack. As one of the main contents of the self-defense force building, it is required to continue to strengthen the ability to recover from the island and sea and air, and put a strong offensive color on the defense.

From this point of view, the battlefield-oriented, strengthening the combat capability of the Self-Defense Forces will be the main policy direction of the new version of the Defense Plan. Therefore, the introduction of an attack-type long-range cruise missile with a range of 900 kilometers and the aircraft carrier transformation of the Izumo will also become an important issue for the Japanese government to continue to expand its armament in the next five years. This will not only have a great impact on the peace constitution, but also It will have a serious negative impact on the security situation in Northeast Asia.

(Author: National Institute of Political Science, National Defense University  Army Research Institute)

Mu Xiaoming Liu Haijiang

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