FEATURE | JMSDF making its regional presence felt

Photo: JMSDF
Photo: JMSDF – suzutsuki

The evolution of the large, but for many years politically constrained, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) continues apace.

JMSDF warships have in recent months joined in with operations in Asian waters with foreign warships deployed to the region. Now, a dedicated JMSDF task group (TG), under the command of Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda, has left Japanese waters on a two-month deployment, scheduled to make defence diplomacy visits to the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka. The TG will also carry out bilateral exercises with the navies of these countries.

Many analysts believe that future naval links between Japan and, in particular, emerging maritime superpower India, will prove to be a counterbalance to Chinese domination of Asian seaways.

Kaga. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Hunini

Core of the TG is the modern, flat-topped, 27,500 tonne Destroyer (Helicopter) Kaga the largest warship in the JMSDF order of battle, and a light aircraft carrier in all but name. Escorts are the Murasame-class destroyer Inazuma, and the Akizuki-class destroyer Suzutsuki. Kaga has six Mitsubishi SH-60 helicopters embarked for anti-submarine, search and rescue and logistics duties.

(In June 2018 BairdMaritime.com reported that Tokyo was examining the possibility of upgrading Kaga and sister ship Izumo to operate F-35B fighter bombers. Beijing has subsequently warned Tokyo to “exercise caution” over such a move.)

The current deployment must be viewed in the context of Japan’s 2018 Defence Plan, which prioritises the conditioning of the JMSDF for out-of-area operations, in order to respond both to natural disasters, and to external security threats, and to help to maintain regional stability.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.