Japan's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

Land of the rising gun? 

Once upon a time—just six years ago, actually—Northeast Asia was a security backwater. China was in the midst of the “peaceful rise” policy advocated by Deng Xiaoping and though her defense budget grew at a prodigious rate, her neighbors were unconcerned.

The main threat was North Korea, which had successfully tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and had a growing arsenal of conventional ballistic missiles. But even this threat, once a ballistic missile shield were put in place, could be mitigated.

Japan’s defense policy and establishment, aside from upgrading the Ministry of Defense to a cabinet-level role, remained largely unchanged. The defense budget remained largely unchanged, and when it did, it dropped. Life in Japan went on.

But in 2010, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. The detaining of Chinese fishing boat off the Senkaku Islands turned into an international incident, and China began pressing its claim to what it called the Diaoyu Islands. Anti-Japanese rhetoric sparked nationalist riots. Air and naval confrontations began between the two countries in the East China Sea, and continue to this day.

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In North Korea, the ascendence of Kim Jong in 2011 and the continued development of its nuclear and missile programs have raised questions of whether a mere missile shield is enough to protect the country.

For Japan, it’s the same security environment, but in every way worse. Japan’s neighbors are making noise and the defense budget is up—albeit slightly—to pay for new weapons. With that in mind, here are Japan’s five most deadly weapons of war.

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Izumo-class Helicopter Destroyer

Japan’s second run of “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo class is an evolutionary growth over the earlier Hyuga-class. There will be two so-called “destroyers,” the namesake and an as-yet unnamed second ship currently under construction.

The ships, which feature a full-length flight deck, hangar, and aircraft elevators measure 248 meters long with a beam 38 meters and a displacement of 19,500 tons. The ships have a crew of approximately 470 individuals. The flight deck and hangar are designed to accommodate up to fourteen helicopters, including CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The flight deck is sufficiently large to allow simultaneous flight operations by up to five helicopters.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force describes Izumo as a multi-purpose vessel. The primary stated role is anti-submarine warfare, with the ship embarking Mitsubishi H-60 sub-hunting helicopters. A secondary role is as a disaster relief/humanitarian assistance platform: the Izumo has a 35 bed hospital complete with a surgical suite and accommodations for up to 450 passengers.

A third role was illustrated by Izumo’s smaller sister ship, Hyuga, during the 2013 Dawn Blitz exercises. During Dawn Blitz, Hyuga embarked Japanese marines and Ground Self Defense Force CH-47J and AH-64J helicopters to conduct air assaults.

The most interesting role for the Izumo class would be that of fixed-wing aircraft carrier. Although Japan has not announced plans to use the ships as such, the fact they are large enough to carry the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter can’t be ignored. The F-35B would be useful supporting the Japanese marine brigade in amphibious operations, as well as providing additional fighters to help monitor the Ryukyu and Senkaku Island chains.

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Properly retrofitted to support fixed-wing operations, each Izumo might be able to embark up to a dozen F-35Bs. The question is whether such a small number of aircraft would be worth the astronomical investment, especially a country with as much public debt as Japan.

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Soryu-class Diesel Electric Submarines

Japan’s Soryu-class submarines have been described as the most advanced diesel-electric submarines in the world. Displacing 4,100 tons submerged, the submarines can make thirteen knots on the surface and up to twenty knots submerged. Four Stirling air independent propulsion systems allow the Soryu class to remain underwater longer than most conventionally-powered submarines.

The Soryu class is built by two shipyards, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation. The Soryu class is armed with six bow-mounted torpedo tubes, with a total of 20 Type 89 high-speed homing torpedoes and American-made Sub-Harpoon missiles.