By By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large | March 30, 2015
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) commissioned the 814-foot DDH-183 Izumo in Yokohama on March 25, making it the largest helicopter aircraft carrier ever built. The 21,495-ton ship – the first of two planned for its class – has a flight deck that can launch and recover any rotorcraft, including U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey tilt rotors, which are sometimes deployed with the MSDF.
The $1.2 billion (113.9 billion yen) Izumo, which is officially classified as a “helicopter destroyer,” is described by the Ministry of Defense as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform capable of carrying as many as 28 helicopters. It is the first of two planned for its class.
Japan’s self-imposed post World War II doctrine prohibits it from operating an offensive military force. Instead, it calls for personnel, vehicles, naval vessels and aircraft to be operated only for its own national defense.
China has expressed concerns that the Izumo’s enormous flight deck could still be used to launch short takeoff and landing attack jets, such as the F-35B, if existing hostilities between the two nations were to escalate, and Japan was to abandon its defense-only doctrine. Japan’s defense minister Gen Nakatani, however, dismisses China’s suspicions, pointing out that the Izumo lacks the hangar space and workshops to support fixed-wing attack aircraft.