With a little modification, Japan’s JS Hyuga helicopter destroyer can be turned into a light aircraft carrier, carrying potentially dangerous fixed-wing aircraft.
Before the Izumo-class helicopter carrier, the Hyuga was the largest warship of the Japanese navy. JS Hyuga has contributed significantly to the defense of Japan.
The Japanese Navy is a force with a long tradition and has demonstrated a terrifying ability during the Second World War. After the war ended, Japan renounced war as an instrument of the state. The government authorized the creation of the Self-Defense Forces, armed forces with a strictly defensive mission.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force is a navy in all but name, with some important restrictions: as a matter of policy, the government forbids the construction of weapons considered primarily offensive in nature, particularly aircraft carriers.
For decades, Japan’s mission to protect maritime routes urged Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to build aircraft carriers as well as restore naval air forces.
In the late 1960s, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force began building two Haruna-class destroyers carrying helicopters, with the storage area and landing deck occupying half the length of the ship. This mission has continued to be applied to two Shirane-class destroyers.
The Haruna and Shirane classes were not carriers, but they showed the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s experimental process of naval air force deployment. These classes became the basis for Japan to build the Osumi-class amphibious vessel with a full load of 14,000 tons, allowing Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to transport infantry to offshore islands. Osumi also has a flight deck similar to a regular carrier, although there is no hangar.
The birth of JS Hyuga
In 2009, Japan took another ponderous step towards naval aviation with the launching of JS Hyuga, known with the pennant number DDH-181. The vessel is the lead ship of the Hyuga-class. Her construction was begun at the IHI Marine United Shipyard in Yokohama in 2002 and she was officially commissioned on March 18th, 2009.
The main task of JS Hyuga is to carry out anti-submarine activities. Serving as flagships for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is on the agenda, command-and-control function is also in place.
JS Hyuga design
The specifications of the Hyuga are comparable to light aircraft carriers, such as the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi and Spanish Príncipe de Asturias. She has a through-deck design to maximise potential space, enabling it to launch and retrieve the helicopter complement.
Unlike conventional aircraft carriers, the Hyuga is unable to operate fixed-wing aircraft as it is not fitted with a ski-jump or any other equipment.
Hyuga and her sister ship Ise are 197m long, a beam of 33m and replaces 19,000 tons fully loaded, making them even bigger than HMS Invincible. Both have two aircraft lifts, an enclosed hangar and are able to carry four antisubmarine warfare helicopters, and can support up to eleven SH-60K type helicopters.
The ship has a crew of 340 sailors and can only carry helicopters. As Japan was restricted under the pacifist constitution, it cannot possess offensive aircraft carriers.
The heart of this helicopter carrier is a combined gas turbine and gas propulsion. She is fitted with four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, developing 25,000 horsepower each. The propulsion system provides a maximum speed of more than 30 knots.
In order to protect the ship against inbound missile threats or airborne enemy aircraft, Hyuga is equipped with 16 mk41 vertical-launch system cells.
She is also accommodates two 20mm Phalanx anti-missile cannons and two triple 324mm torpedo mounts for self defence against submerged enemy submarines.
4 12.7mm heavy machine guns are used for anti-personnel and extremely close-in anti-aircraft defense.
Sensor and countermeasures
Sensors and processing systems on the ship are executed by the advanced technology command system including OYQ-10 advanced combat direction system.
FCS-3 AAW system is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Japanese Defense Ministry. For submarine threats there is the OQQ-21 anti submarine warfare system.
The electronic warfare is handled by the NOLQ-3C EW, OPS-20C surface search radar for scanning for low flying missile threats.
It can be said that the Hyuga is one of the largest warships built for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and has given Japan its first real power projection capability since 1945. The vessel could also be instrumental for disaster recovery missions in the region, prone to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and typhoons. In the March 2011 tsunami disaster, JS Hyuga was an active member in rescue operations.
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