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First US jets to take off from Japanese warship this fall – The Diplomat


Asia Defense | Security | East Asia

The Marine Corps’ F-35B fighters will operate from Japan’s modified “helicopter destroyers”.

The Izumo Bridge as he sat in a port in Japan, December 2018.

Credit: Catherine Putz

The US Marine Corps ‘F-35B fighters will operate from a Japanese warship this fall, a significant milestone in the two armies’ ability to work together and potentially a critical capability in hypothetical crises with China overhead. Taiwan or the islands of southwestern Japan.

General David Berger, Commander of the Marines, revealed the plan at a conference this week.

In 2019, USNI News reported that Abe Shinzo’s government in Japan had approached the US Marines about the possibility of operating their jets from two of his large helicopter assault ships, although neither ship has yet started the modifications to the reinforcement of the bridge that it would require.

Japan euphemistically calls its large amphibious aircraft carriers “helicopter destroyers” because aircraft carriers are more often associated with offensive military operations. The two most modern, the Kaga and Izumo, are being modified to accommodate F-35B fighters, which have vertical or short take-off capability and can be launched from short flight decks without the aid of catapult systems. The trade-off for this ability is that jets have shorter flight endurance and can carry less weaponry when not launched from catapults.

Despite Japan’s insistence that the ships were not real aircraft carriers when they were built, the understatement was denied when the Izumo’s sister ship was named – the first Kaga was a famous one. aircraft carrier of the former Imperial Navy, taking part in the attack on Pearl. Harbor and later scuttled after being damaged in the Battle of Midway in 1942.

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Izumo modifications were completed earlier this summer and therefore it is the vessel likely to receive the American jets. Kaga’s modifications are expected to begin at the end of this year.

Although they lack the range and firepower of the air squadrons that the United States’ nuclear-powered super-carriers can accommodate, Japan’s small aircraft carriers are well suited to the archipelagic operating environment around its islands. original.

In a potential conflict between China and Japan over disputed East China Sea islands that draws the United States – which is bound by treaty to help Japan defend its territory, including the disputed Senkaku Islands – or a much wider conflict with Taiwan which draws to Japan, the ability of US jets to supplement Japanese air wings or use Japanese bridges could be a major asset.

China’s growing military advance and belligerent rhetoric towards Japan and Taiwan prompted Japanese leaders to begin speak more publicly on its strategic interest in maintaining the independence of the island. To access the wider Western Pacific, Chinese warships must now cross the narrow straits between Japan’s Ryukyu Islands. If China took control of Taiwan, its fleets and air force would have more direct access to Japan’s eastern flank in the event of a potential conflict.

Japan and Taiwan organized their first joint security talks end of August. While Japan and Taiwan do not have official diplomatic relations, senior lawmakers on both sides have discussed China’s invasive and increasingly aggressive military activities in the region and potential military cooperation, including states. -United.

In a vast struggle for the fate of Taiwan, the most powerful aircraft carriers in the United States would likely be engaged in deep strikes against naval targets inside the so-called First Island Chain, while the US Marines and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces would likely focus on defending these islands to prevent Chinese warships and submarines from “breaking into” the Pacific. The ability of the United States Marine Corps aviation to operate from Japanese ships could provide crucial flexibility to the allies in this scenario.

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