The Defense Ministry will remodel the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Izumo so that it can serve as the command center in a bid to reinforce the defense of remote islands in the southwest, informed sources said.
By deploying a vessel with front-line headquarters functions, the ministry aims to strengthen the integrated operations of the Ground, Maritime and Air SDF and help the smooth execution of a mission to recapture the remote islands in the event they are occupied, the sources said.
The remodeling plan reflects the government’s new defense program outline mapped out in December, which calls for creating a GSDF amphibious unit with the main task of taking back remote islands occupied by enemies.
The ministry expects to start operating the revamped Izumo late in fiscal 2014, according to the sources.
Launched in August 2013, the 248-meter-long vessel, with a standard displacement of 19,500 tons, is the largest destroyer of the MSDF.
The helicopter-carrying Izumo will be equipped with an electronic conference room that gives commands to individual units and an advanced communications system, the sources said. The setup will enable the ship to gather all information from ships transporting the amphibious unit and ASDF aircraft supporting the unit so that it can issue precise instructions in response to changing situations.
The aircraft carrier-like ship has a long landing strip between the bow and the stern, where up to five helicopters can take off and land simultaneously.
The ministry plans to deploy the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft on the Izumo in the future. The GSDF is scheduled to be equipped with a total of 17 Ospreys by fiscal 2018.
Following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunamis, which devastated parts of the Tohoku region, the Izumo was built to be dispatched in the event of major natural disasters. It can accommodate some 450 people for a long stay in addition to crew members and is equipped with a surgery room and beds for the sick.
The remodeling plan came as the government faced the challenge of defending remote islands and conducting the integrated operations of the tri-service SDF during its review of the old defense program outlinehttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/13/national/to-reinforce-defense-of-remote-areas-asdfs-izumo-to-be-command-center/