The JS Atago is one of two Atago class of guided missile destroyers, DDG-177 Atago and DDG-178 Ashigara.
In the past few years there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of warships and the naval capability of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Beijing is building almost all warships, from carriers to escorts, in some cases more than a dozen new ships built at the same time.
In response to PLAN’s continuous development, Japan is seeking to expand its naval combat capabilities. The Aegis air warfare destroyers are a solution chosen by Tokyo. This is a generation of warships built based on technology and hardware from the United States. The destroyers are the answer to Beijing’s threat.
The JS Atago is one of two Atago class of guided missile destroyers, DDG-177 Atago and DDG-178 Ashigara. The Atago class is a scaled-up and improved version of the Kongou class, a Japanese version of the US Arleigh Burke class.
JS Atago is considered to be the most versatile warship in the staff of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as well as the Asia-Pacific region at the present time. Atago was named for Mount Atago, She was laid down by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagasaki on April 5, 2004, launched on August 24, 2005; and commissioned on March 15, 2007.
The JS Atago is fundamentally an improved and scaled-up version of the Kongo-class destroyers. One of the most obvious changes is an additional hangar to carry one SH-60K helicopter, which has better helicopter handling facilities. The helicopter is further equipped to deal with ship and submarine threats and serve in the Search and Rescue role when needed – while provided valuable over-the-horizon reconnaissance. In comparison to the Kongo-class which only had helicopter platforms.
The design of Js Atago is basically based on the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, her features a vertical mast and a bridge with sleek sides. The bridge is two decks higher than aboard a Arleigh Burke class. The Atago also use a new stealthier plain-structure mast, which was originally designed in Japan, rather than familiar lattice type mast. A new modified smokestack and other improvements were also introduced to make the Atago stealthier.
The Atago has a length of 170m, a little longer than the Kongo-class. Her beam of 21m and draft of 6.2m. Atago displaces 7,700 tons under standard loads and over 10,000 tons under full loads. The destroyer can accommodate a crew of 300.
DDG-177 was equipped with 4 Ishikawajima Harima LM2500-30 gas turbines developing 100,000 horsepower, driving two shafts. The propulsion system provides a maximum speed of 30 knots.
Aegis Combat System
The fire-control system for the Atago is the Aegis Weapon System Baseline 7 phase 1, which will combine American and Japanese manufactured systems to make up the complete Aegis system. The Aegis Weapon System baseline 7 has improved tracking accuracy for vertical targets, and an acquisition capability for small low-altitude targets compared with the Aegis Weapon System baseline 4 and 5, used in Kongo class.
The Aegis Combat System is an American integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin. The high-performance phased array radar system combined with powerful computers can search, detect and track over 200 targets simultaneously.
The sensor suite includes an SPY-1D passive electronically scanned array radar, an OPS-28E surface search radar. The sonar is an AN/SQS-53C. There are three AN/SPG-62 Fire Control Systems, AN/SQQ-89 anti-submarine warfare unit, and the Mk 46 Optronic director fitted on the destroyer.
Like the Kongo class, the Js Atago destroyer are equipped with a comprehensive suite of weapon systems. With her sophisticated long-range air defense capability provide air coverage for the fleet. These can even engage ballistic missiles.
There is a 96-cell Mk41 Vertical Launch System with 64 cells in the forward area and 32 cells in the stern area. These are packed with a mix of SM-2MR Standard missiles, SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles and RUM-139 ASROC anti-submarine missiles.
In keeping with Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution, the Atago class does not currently carry the Tomahawk missile. Instead anti-ship capability is provided by less capable Japan Type 90 SSM-1B anti-ship missiles. These anti-ship missiles have a range of 150 km and carry a 225 kg warhead. In concept these are similar to the US Harpoon, though it looks like these Japanese missiles are more advanced than the Harpoons. The Atago can carry up to 8 of these missiles on two quadruple launchers.
The main gun fitted is a Mk 45 Mod 4 127mm gun, in a stealth-shaped mount. Made by Japan Steel Works under an American license from its original manufacturer. The gun can fire 40 rounds a minute within a range of 38,000m. This gun can engage hostile ships, air targets, and bombard land targets.
There are two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems mounted on the vessel. One of them is located in the forward area, while another one is in the stern area.
Two triple-tuble torpedo launchers for Mk46 Mod 5 Neartip, or Japanese Type 73 torpedoes are mounted on the destroyers for anti-submarine warfare roles.
In general, Altago has strong defensive capabilities. She is equally capable of intercepting sea-skimmers and ballistic missiles at the edge of space. On top of all that, it has multiple layers of anti-submarine warfare capability. Especially when combined with Japan’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, will allow the ship to share sensor data and provide targeting data for missiles. Surely this will be a counterweight to the Chinese navy’s 052D class warships.
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