Vessels of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force

JMSDF Destroyers JS INAZUMA (DD 105)and JS SUZUTSUKI (DD117)) commanded by Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda, Commander Escort Flotilla 4, sail in the Pacific for Indo Southeast Asia Deployment 2018 (ISEAD18) in August 2018 while conducting Replenishment At Sea (RAS) training. [Japan Ministry of Defense]

Vessels of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), 2018-2019
(adapted from Wikipedia, and Jane’s Defense: Sea Module)

Type Class Name

Displacement (tonnes)

Attack submarine Sōryū-class  JS Sōryū

 JS Unryū

 JS Hakuryū

 JS Kenryū

 JS Zuiryū

 JS Kokuryū

 JS Jinryū

 JS Sekiryū

 JS Seiryū

 JS Shōryū

 JS Ōryū


Additional subs building to be commissioned.
Oyashio-class  JS Uzushio

 JS Makishio

 JS Isoshio

 JS Narushio

 JS Kuroshio

 JS Takashio

 JS Yaeshio

 JS Setoshio

 JS Mochishio


2 of 11 built converted to training ships.
Helicopter destroyer Izumo-class  JS Izumo 

 JS Kaga


(or Helicopter carrier)
Hyūga-class  JS Hyūga

 JS Ise


Guided missile destroyer (Aegis) Maya-class  JS Maya


JS Maya is expected to be in commission by March 2020.
Atago-class  JS Atago

 JS Ashigara


Kongō-class  JS Kongō

 JS Kirishima

 JS Myōkō

 JS Chōkai


Guided missile destroyer Hatakaze-class  JS Hatakaze

 JS Shimakaze


Destroyer Asahi-class  JS Asahi


First Asahi-class destroyer, JS Shiranui, is expected to be in commissioned by March 2019.
Akizuki-class  JS Akizuki

 JS Teruzuki

 JS Suzutsuki

 JS Fuyuzuki


Takanami-class  JS Takanami

 JS Onami

 JS Makinami

 JS Sazanami

 JS Suzunami


Murasame-class  JS Murasame

 JS Harusame

 JS Yudachi

 JS Kirisame

 JS Inazuma

 JS Samidare

 JS Ikazuchi

 JS Akebono

 JS Ariake


Small destroyer Asagiri-class  JS Asagiri

 JS Yamagiri

 JS Yūgiri

 JS Amagiri

 JS Hamagiri

 JS Setogiri

 JS Sawagiri

 JS Umigiri


Hatsuyuki-class  JS Matsuyuki

 JS Asayuki


Destroyer escort Abukuma-class  JS Abukuma

 JS Jintsu

 JS Oyodo

 JS Sendai

 JS Chikuma

 JS Tone


 (or corvette)
Minesweeper Uraga-class  JS Uraga

 JS Bungo


Categorized as Mine-countermeasures support ship.
Awaji-class  JS Awaji

 JS Hirado


JMSDF commissions second Awaji-class minesweeper
Enoshima-class  JS Enoshima

 JS Chichijima

 JS Hatsushima


Hirashima-class  JS Hirashima

 JS Yakushima

 JS Takashima


Sugashima-class  JS Sugashima

 JS Notojima

 JS Tsunoshima

 JS Naoshima

 JS Toyoshima

 JS Ukushima

 JS Izushima

 JS Aishima

 JS Aoshima

 JS Miyajima

 JS Shishijima

 JS Kuroshima


Uwajima-class  JS Nagashima


Minesweeper controller Ieshima-class  JS Kumejima

 JS Yugeshima


Reconverted Uwajima-class minesweeper.
Landing ship tank Ōsumi-class  JS Ōsumi

 JS Shimokita

 JS Kunisaki


The Japanese MoD is planning to perform a major refit on the Osumi-class to improve their amphibious capabilities.
Utility landing craft LCU-2001-class  JS LC No.1

 JS LC No.2


Landing craft mechanized YL-09-class  JS YL-11

 JS YL-12

 JS YL-13

 JS YL-14

 JS YL-15

 JS YL-16

 JS YL-17


Patrol boat Hayabusa-class  JS Hayabusa

 JS Wakataka

 JS Otaka

 JS Kumataka

 JS Umitaka

 JS Shiritaka


Cadet training ship Kashima-class  JS Kashima


Training vessel Shimayuki-class  JS Shimayuki

 JS Setoyuki

 JS Yamayuki


Reconverted Hatsuyuki-class destroyers.
Training submarine Oyashio-class  JS Oyashio

 JS Michishio


Reconverted Oyashio-class submarines.
Training support ship Kurobe-class  JS Kurobe (ATS-4202)
Tenryu-class  JS Tenryu (ATS-4203)
Replenishment oiler Mashu-class  JS Mashu

 JS Omi


Towada-class  JS Hamana

 JS Tokiwa

 JS Towada


Training support ship Hiuchi-class  JS Hiuchi

 JS Suo

 JS Amakusa

 JS Genkai

 JS Enshu


Cable laying ship ATC Muroto
Submarine rescue vessel  


 JS Chiyoda


JMSDF commissions new submarine rescue ship
 JS Chihaya


Oceanographic research ship AGS Shonan

AGS Nichinan

AGS Futami

Ocean surveillance ship Hibiki-class  JS Hibiki

 JS Harima

JMSDF orders third, more advanced, Hibiki-class ship.
Experiment ship ASE Asuka
Ice breaker AGB Shirase


Yacht ASY Hashidate

Japan’s Grand Strategy and Military Forces (IV)

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Destroyer JS Izumo. [Japan Ministry of Defense}

In my previous post, I took a look at the roots of the extremely close level of integration between the U.S. Navy (USN) and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). This post will look at new Japanese naval technology development efforts that compliment USN capabilities, which in turn further the common strategic interests of both countries.

While officially classed as a helicopter destroyer (per the doctrinal focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW)), Izumo-class ships are aircraft carriers in many respects, not least by the image they project to other countries in the region. In March 2018, Japanese Defense Secretary Onodera announced that a study was underway to determine if the Izumo-class could embark F-35B fighters. This would give the JMSDF a similar capability to the U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) Amphibious Assault Ships or the Royal Navy’s (RN) new Queen Elizabeth class carrier, (65,000 tons empty). At only 27,000 tons fully loaded, the Izumo class is roughly half the size of U.S.S. America (44,971 tons, fully loaded).

The ability to generate air sorties at sea is a key capability that drives the acquisition of aircraft carriers. Generating stealth fighter sorties at sea gives a potent strike capability, which could conceivably be used to strike at North Korean missile launch facilities, for example. This contingency plan alone was enough to draw a diplomatic warning from Beijing.  Undeterred, the Japanese Defense Ministry just announced plans for F-35Bs to be purchased, as well as hypersonic missile capabilities.

Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Soryu-class submarine Hakuryu (SS-503) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy/Cmdr. Christy Hagen/Released)

Another example of Japanese maritime power projection capability is the Soryu class submarine, who some have claimed is the “best submarine in the world” (Mizokami-san does good work at Japan Security Watch). Carrying up to 30 “fish,” the Soryu class’s Type 89 torpedo is a formidable weapon, not least of which is its maximum speed of 70 knots, which is faster than the U.S. Mk48 ADCAP torpedo’s 55 knots.

Starting this October, these subs will feature lithium-ion batteries, which can store about double the energy of a lead-acid battery for the same volume, and also offers a weight advantage. This enhances the Soryu’s power projection effectiveness, as the Japanese Ministry of Defense has recently announced deployments to the contested South China Sea.

While these are hailed as a first, it is more likely this was the initial announcement of such deployments, which probably have been ongoing for some time. There is a certain logic to parsing how these information releases are worded:

Demonstrating freedom of navigation, a Japanese submarine for the first time conducted drills in the South China Sea where China is constructing military facilities, according to Japanese government sources. The Defense Ministry secretly dispatched the Kuroshio, a Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine, which conducted anti-submarine drills on Sept. 13 with three MSDF destroyers that were on a long-term mission around Southeast Asia, they said. The ministry had conducted anti-submarine drills only in sea areas around Japan, they added. [emphasis added]

This says nothing about being the first deployment, only the first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) drill.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has been awarded a contract by the Japanese MoD to build the first two of four ships of a new class of multirole frigate (seen here in computer-generated imagery) for the JMSDF. {Source: MHI]

In accordance with its 2018 National Defense Program Guidelines, Japan is also planning a new type of multi-role frigate. The JMSDF has announced plans “to introduce a new type of destroyer with minesweeping capabilities, with the aim of increasing the number of such vessels to 22 in the 2030s, sources said. In light of the intensifying activities of the Chinese Navy in the East China Sea, including around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the government aims to improve warning and surveillance capabilities.”

According to Jane’s,

[T]his new frigate class, which is intended to carry out surveillance missions in waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago, will be equipped with enhanced multirole capabilities, including the ability to conduct anti-mine warfare operations, which until now have been performed by the JMSDF’s ocean-going minesweepers. Armament on the frigates, each of which will be capable of embarking one helicopter as well as unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, is expected to include the navalized version of the Type-03 (also known as the ‘Chū-SAM Kai’) medium-range surface-to-air missile, a 5-inch (127 mm)/62-calibre gun, a vertical launch system, canister-launched anti-ship missiles, and a SeaRAM close-in weapon system.

From this, we can see that this weapon system is intended to keep the military balance in place in the home waters, more so than a power projection mission. The purpose for these capabilities becomes more clear when considering the investments by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in mine warfare. “Today, the evidence continues to mount that the employment of sea mines remains a core tenet of Chinese naval war-fighting doctrine.Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College has written a great white paper on the topic, entiled “Chinese Mine Warfare: A PLA Navy ‘Assassin’ s Mace’ Capability.”  More to follow on this in later posts!

Japan’s Grand Strategy and Military Forces (III)

[John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab]

In my previous post, I looked at the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) basic strategic missions of defending Japan from maritime invasion and securing the sea lines of communication (SLOC). This post will examine the basis for JMSDF’s approach to those tasks.

In 2011, JMSDF Vice Admiral (Ret.) Yoji Koda published an excellent article in the Naval War College Review, entitled “A New Carrier Race?.” Two passages therefrom are particular relevant and illuminating:

In 1952, … the Japan Maritime Guard (JMG) was established as a rudimentary defense organization for the nation. The leaders of the JMG were determined that the organization would be a navy, not a reinforced coast guard. Most were combat-experienced officers (captains and below) of the former Imperial Japanese Navy, and they had clear understanding of the difference between a coast guard–type law-enforcement force and a navy. Two years later, the JMG was transformed into the JMSDF, and with leaders whose dream to build a force that had a true naval function was stronger than ever. However, they also knew the difficulty of rebuilding a real navy, in light of strict constraints imposed by the new, postwar constitution. Nonetheless, the JMSDF has built its forces and trained its sailors vigorously, with this goal in view, and it is today one of the world’s truly capable maritime forces in both quality and size.

This continuity with the World War II-era Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) is evident in several practices. The JMSDF generally re-uses IJN names of for new vessels, as well as its naval ensign, the Kyokujitsu-ki or “Rising Sun” flag. This flag is seen by some in South Korea and other countries as symbolic of Japan’s wartime militarism. In October 2018, the JMSDF declined an invitation to attend a naval review held by the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) at Jeju island, due to a request that only national flags be flown at the event. This type of disagreement may have a material impact on the ability of the JMSDF and the ROKN, both allies of the United States, to jointly operate effectively.

Koda continued:

Since the founding of the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) and within it the JMSDF, in 1954…the bases of Japan’s national security and defense are the capability of the JSDF and the Japanese-U.S. alliance… Thus the operational concept of the JSDF with respect to the U.S. armed forces has been one of complementary mission-sharing, in which U.S. forces concentrate on offensive operations, while the JSDF maximizes its capability for defensive operations. In other words, the two forces form what is known as a “spear and shield” relationship… [T]he JMSDF ensures that Japan can receive American reinforcements from across the Pacific Ocean, guarantees the safety of U.S. naval forces operating around Japan, and enables U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs) to concentrate on strike operations against enemy naval forces and land targets…[so] the JMSDF has set antisubmarine warfare as its main task…ASW was made the main pillar of JMSDF missions. Even in the present security environment, twenty years after the end of the Cold War and the threat of invasion from the Soviet Union, two factors are unchanged—the Japanese-U.S. alliance and Japan’s dependence on imported natural resources. Therefore the protection of SLOCs has continued to be a main mission of the JMSDF.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which the USN and JMSDF are integrated. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet is headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, where the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class super carrier, is stationed. Historically, this position was filled by the U.S.S. George Washington, which is currently back in Virginia undergoing refueling and overhaul. According to the Stars and Stripes, she may return to Japan with a new air wing, incorporating the MQ-25A Stingray aerial refueling drones.

According to the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), the USN has the following ships based in Japan:

  • Yokosuka (south of Tokyo, in eastern Japan)
    • One CVN (nuclear aircraft carrier), U.S.S. Ronald Reagan
    • One AGC (amphibious command ship), U.S.S. Blue Ridge
    • Three CG (guided missile cruisers)
    • Seven DDG (guided missile destroyers)
  • Sasebo (north of Nagasaki, in the southern island of Kyuushu)
    • One LHD (amphibious assault ship, multi-purpose), U.S.S. Bon Home Richard
    • One LPD (amphibious transport dock), U.S.S. Greenway
    • Two LSD (dock landing ship)
    • Four MCM (mine counter measure ship)

One example of this close integration is the JS Maya, a Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG), launched on 30 July 2018. The ship is currently outfitting and is expected to be commissioned in 2020. A notable feature is the Collective Engagement Capability (CEC) (see graphic above). CEC is a “revolutionary approach to air defense,” according to John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (which is involved in the development), “it allows combat systems to share unfiltered sensor measurements data associated with tracks with rapid timing and precision to enable the [USN-JMSDF] battlegroup units to operate as one.”

Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the China’s People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, expressed concern in Chinese Global Times about this capability for “potentially targeting China and threatening other countries… CEC will strengthen intelligence data sharing with the US…strengthen their [US and Japan] military alliance. From the US perspective, it can better control Japan… ‘Once absolute security is realized by Japan and the US, they could attack other countries without scruples, which will certainly destabilize other regions.’”

Japan’s Grand Strategy and Military Forces (II)

Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group conduct Annual Exercise 2016. [U.S. Navy]

In my first post on Japan’s grand strategy, I examined its “free and open” Indo-Pacific policy and briefly reviewed its armed forces—nominally “self-defense forces (SDF)”—as well as the legal reasons for this euphemism, and the Japanese government’s plans to clarify this constitutional conundrum.

The next several posts in this series will focus on a general overview of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), why this branch is considered primary (or dominant), some history in terms of how it came to be, the current missions, defense concepts, current capabilities and how they have been envisioned, how they are deployed, and a look ahead about options under consideration.

According to an excellent article in the Naval War College Review by Toshi Yoshihara, “the Japanese often describe their key national characteristic in nautical terms, with the familiar notion that ‘Japan is a small island nation lacking resource endowments and is thus highly dependent upon seaborne commerce for its well-being.’”

A few key facts, according to Jane’s Defense: Sea Module:

  • Japan has the world’s seventh-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • Japan operates a large commercial fishing fleet of about 200,000 vessels.
  • 90% of Japan’s oil is shipped from the Middle East.
  • 60% of Japan’s food is imported by sea.

The JMSDF is therefore tasked with the fundamental naval missions of defending Japan from maritime invasion and securing the sea lines of communication (SLOC). A recent article in the Japan News, spelled out why SLOC protection is vital for Japan:

[T]he South China Sea is a key sea-lane for Japan. If it became necessary to take a detour around the South China Sea, the additional time and fuel costs are estimated to be 1½ days and $120,000 for travel via the Sunda Strait, and three days and $240,000 for travel via the Lombok Strait. Both of these straits can be perilous, with strong tidal currents, sunken ships and shoals. If either were to see a large increase in marine traffic, chaos is predicted to ensue.

We can see this concern clearly in the recent JMSDF exercise deployment through the South China Sea, the straits of Sunda and Malacca, and onwards to India.

[The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun)]

For Indo Southeast Asia Deployment 2018 (ISEAD18) from 26 August to 30 October 2018, JMSDF vessels JS Kaga (DDH 184), JS Inazuma (DD105), JS Suzutsuki (DD117), stopped at Subic Bay, Philippines; Jakarta, Indonesia; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Visakhapatnam, India; and Changi, Singapore. The exercise included naval various exercises with port call countries, as well as the British and U.S. navies. This activity yielded important agreements, such as the maritime surveillance pact between Japan and India to share information on Chinese ship locations.