DDH-184 Kaga (24DDH) and embarked F-35 ?

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The new Helicopter destroyer DHH-184 Kaga (24DDH) from the Izumo-class is re-opening again the discussion about the necessity of the JMSDF for a conventional fleet carrier with embarked F-35 fighters. To understand the issue of the Japanese F-35, we need to flash back to 2011. Since 2011, Japan initiated a large-scale program of $8 billion to acquire a new multi-role fighter and the selected platform was the F-35. This new plane is a next-generation fighter with extraordinary performance and novel intelligence systems and sensors. The air fleet, composed mainly by F-2 and F-15 would surely need urgent replacements by middle of 2020.

Currently, the program the JASDF involves a purchase of a total 42 F-35A. The budget for 2015 seems to include six units with a cost of over ¥100 billion. Some extra costs should be added because more than 20 companies would be involved in industrial production to acquire enough know-how so that it may revert in technology for Japan.

Compared with other planes like Typhoon and Super Hornet, the F-35 may not be years light ahead in terms of speed or maneuverability. However, it has unique features in stealth and much better improved sensor capabilities. More importantly, one of the critical aspects that may have favored the decision to purchase F-35 is that it offers a high degree of cooperation between the US Air Force / US Navy and the JMSDF / JASDF.

The strategy of Japan to denial access to open ocean to Chinese Naval Forces in a hypothetical and not desirable conflict requires the use of Task Forces with helicopter destroyers with high anti-submarine capability. The F-35 could be adequate to support this global strategy given their advance sensor systems and stealth. Currently, only version F-35B could be operated from flat-deck carriers and Japan has not initiated any purchase in that direction as far as it has been reported. The VSTOL capability of the F-35B also requires a special deck material capable of absorb high temperatures and it does not seem that the DDH-183 Izumo and/or the new DHH-184 Kaga have this kind of material installed on their deck. Of course, it is highly possible that works might be done to in a reasonable time to replace the deck by another material so that the VSTOL operations with F-35B could be possible. In any case, all indicates that there are will not be plans to incorporate F-35B to the fleet until at least 10 years and there are still many things to learn with the new destroyer helicopters in terms or inter-operability and cooperation with other units of the navy such as the Aegis destroyers.

credit: RUNWAY FUN [Aviation & Military & plus]



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