Japan Unveils First New Air Craft Carrier Since WWII

(LibertyInsider.org) – One of America’s closest overseas allies has unveiled the first new aircraft carrier design since WWII. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is on the cusp of converting the JS Kaga, a helicopter destroyer, into a light aircraft carrier capable of supporting fighter jets. This updated vessel is expected to boost Japan’s defenses significantly in the Pacific while also enhancing cooperative efforts with the US Navy.

The Kaga, the second Izumo-class Destroyer Helicopter (DDH) of its kind in existence, was originally designed to aid forces in anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrols. It could accommodate and operate up to 14 Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters at a time but deployed with just nine in 2015.

Japan’s ongoing process to modify the DDH into a light aircraft carrier will significantly extend the ship’s air defense capabilities in multiple ways. The newly designed Kaga will eventually be able to operate fifth-generation fighters, including Lockheed Martin’s iconic F-35 Lightning II.

Changes to the Kaga include adjustments to the bow, which is now wider and more square to provide more room for landing. The JMSDF also coated the vessel’s flight decks in a protective heat-resistant material to better withstand Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) operations, which plays an essential role in ensuring the ship’s structural integrity.

The JS Kaga embarked from JMSDF Kure Naval Base for sea trials on November 13. However, the overhaul is far from complete. Both the Kaga and its sister ship, the JS Izumo, are expected to receive a new temperature measurement device, new beacon lights, Raytheon’s Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS), and upgraded satellite communication systems between now and 2027.

The Izumo class, as a whole, represented a major advancement for the JMSDF. Not only was it the largest aircraft carrier created by Japan since WWII at the time, but it was also the most sizable within the JMSDF’s entire fleet. At 800 feet long, the Izumo class remains notably smaller than the US’s largest nuclear-powered supercarriers but offers greater flexibility.

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