Unveiling the World’s Unique Helicopter Carrier: Accommodating the F-35B and Pushing the Boundaries of Naval Capabilities

The historic moment of fixed-wing aircraft taking flight from a Japanese battleship has rekindled discussions on Japan’s evolving defense capabilities and its commitment to regional security. On October 3rd, two Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters successfully launched and landed aboard Japan’s largest cruiser, the JS Izumo (DDH-183), marking a significant milestone in Japan’s naval aviation history.

The JS Izumo, originally designated as an “Izumo-class multipurpose destroyer,” was commissioned in 2015 with the intention of serving various purposes. However, its recent transformation into a platform capable of supporting fixed-wing aircraft operations signifies a shift in Japan’s strategic outlook. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya expressed the desire to utilize these ships to their fullest potential.

The F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, capable of short take-offs and vertical landings, plays a pivotal role in this endeavor. The recent deployment of these aircraft on the JS Izumo signifies Japan’s commitment to deploying F-35B aircraft aboard the Izumo and its sister ship, the Kaga, in the coming years.

The JS Izumo boasts impressive specifications, measuring 248 meters in length, 38 meters in width, and having a displacement of 27,000 tons at full load. With a top speed exceeding 30 knots and the capacity to carry up to 28 aircraft, it is now viewed as more than just a “helicopter destroyer.”

Japan’s ambitious plan to acquire 157 F-35 aircraft, including 42 F-35Bs, reflects its commitment to modernizing its defense capabilities. Contracts have already been signed for the first eight, with deliveries expected in fiscal 2024.

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