The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force currently has two Izumo-class warships, classified as “helicopter-carrying destroyers”.

The Japanese Navy has not had a real aircraft carrier since 1945. But this could change, as the Japanese are working on changing the functions of these two “helicopter-carrying destroyers” into light aircraft carriers. Work is being done at their shipyard in Kure city. The new ships will be carriers of fifth-generation F-35B Lightning II fighters.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force currently has two Izumo-class warships, classified as “helicopter-carrying destroyers”. They are the largest ships in the Japanese fleet since World War II with a length of 247 meters, and a full displacement of 27,000 tons. After the conversion, the two ships will be the basis for operating the US-made F-35B 5th generation stealth fighters. And these will be the first aircraft carriers that Japan has in its fleet after 1945.

The US basically agreed to such a project, because the warships of the Japanese Navy would be needed in the role of “light carriers” in the event of a war in the Asia-Pacific region. The photos show that the second ship of the project, the JS Kaga (DDH-184), has undergone all the steps to modernize the flight deck. The next phase involves hull rebalancing, which is expected to last until March 2024. The entire modernization is scheduled to take place until early 2027.

Officially, the first ship of this project – the JS Izumo (DDH-183) has undergone partial modernization to receive the F-35B stealth fighter on deck in early 2021. She is also scheduled to modernize in 2025, which is expected to last until 2027. The modernization will include the reconstruction of the bridge and the installation of the Aircraft Landing Assist System on the deck.

The ships bear the same name as the iconic warships of the Japanese Navy. The Kaga – an aircraft carrier that was sunk by the US fleet in the Battle of Midway in 1942 . While the Izumo was the battleship that destroyed many Russian warships in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. This is also a sign of Japan’s beginnings in converting its “helicopter destroyers” into true aircraft carriers. Tokyo currently has two Hyuga-class ships that also have high conversion potential.

The training landing of a US Marine Corps F-35B fighter jet on the deck of the JS Izumo in the fall of 2021 clearly demonstrated the capabilities of the new aircraft carrier. Under the current plan, Japan plans to procure up to 42 F-35B fighters. They will form the “core” of the carrier battle group, JS Izumo and JS Kaga.


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