Japan unveils biggest warship since WWII, Russia is next in line

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rbth.asia

On 6 August Japan unveiled the Izumo, its largest warship since World War II. The helicopter carrier will enter into service with the country’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2015. Meanwhile, a shipyard in France is building the Vladivostok, a Mistral-class helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ship, under a contract with the Russian MoD. The French shipbuilders recently began to attach the stern of the ship to the main section of the hull. The operation should be completed by late August.

Japanese officials say the fact that the Izumo was unveiled on the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima is merely a coincidence.The ship was floated on 27 January 2012; technicians are now fitting it out and installing additional equipment. < The Izumo will have enough room on its flat top deck for nine helicopters. The Japanese government says its main mission will be to conduct search and rescue operations, as well as to patrol Japan’s territorial waters and protect its sovereignty.

The unveiling of the Izumo has already drawn criticism from China, which has described it as evidence of Tokyo’s attempts to bolster its military might and abandon the pacifist policies to which Japan committed itself after World War II.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbids the country from having a Navy. Neither does it allow the Japanese self-defense force to have any technical means to wage combat action away from the home islands (such as aircraft carriers or strategic bombers).

Japan now intends to build another ship of the Izumo class, and to replace its existing Shirane-class fleet destroyers (one of which is to be decommissioned in 2014) with the new helicopter carriers.

Where will the Vladivostok sail?

Under the contract between France and Russia, the Vladivostok must be delivered to the Russian Navy 36 months after being laid down. The laying-down ceremony took place in February 2013.

It has yet to be decided which of the several Russian Navy fleets the Vladivostok will be assigned to upon completion. The initial plan was that it would serve with the Pacific Fleet; in fact, some of the coastal infrastructure in the port of Vladivostok, where the fleet is based, has already been upgraded to accommodate the ship.

Following the sacking of defence minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, the Russian MoD said the Vladivostok would be very useful as part of the resurrected Russian squadron in the Mediterranean, which has been put together from ships previously assigned to the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea fleets of the Russian Navy.

The geopolitical situation in the Russian Far East clearly requires the strengthening of the decrepit Pacific Fleet.

But the rule of thumb in Russia is that whenever several military units compete for new weaponry, the unit that is territorially closer to Moscow usually wins.

The latest examples of that rule being borne out include deliveries of the new S-400 air defence systems, aircraft, tanks, and other weaponry