The 250m long helicopter destroyer DDH183 Izumo has been unveiled by Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force today in Yokohama.
The helicopter destroyer, said to be the biggest warship Japan has acquired since the World War II, has solicited negative reactions from China with whom Japan has strained relationships over territories in the South China Sea.
DDH183 Izumo, capable of carrying up to 14 helicopters, is supposed to boost Japanese national defence. According to Japanese officials, the ship will serve as a part of anti-submarine warfare, conduct border-area surveillance missions but could also be used to transport personnel and supplies to speed up rescue operations following natural disasters.
The 19,500-tonne ship has been in construction since 2009. Despite not being equipped with catapults to launch fighter jets or a ski-jump ramp to launch fixed-winged aircraft, the commencement of the ship’s operation coincides with some developments in the dispute between Japan, China and Taiwan over the Senkaku and Diaoyutai islands.
For months, Chinese and Japanese ships have been patrolling the territory located between southern Japan and Taiwan. The dispute has intensified recently, after China added a newly refurbished aircraft carrier to its fleet, originally purchased from Russia and after information were revealed it was constructing another one domestically.
China now sees the Japanese DDH183 Izumo carrier as a response to its military modernisation and defence investments, possibly readying for an open conflict.
Japan said it has no plans to use the newly built ship in military aircraft operations, however, some experts said the ship could theoretically be used to support planes capable to take off vertically.
Despite having one of the best equipped and best trained naval forces in the Pacific region, Japan has not been involved in manufacturing military aircraft carriers due to constitutional restrictions that require military forces to conduct solely defensive duties.