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Asia-Pacific: large-scale overseas deployment of a fleet of Japanese naval vessels begins

The operation is code-named "Indo-Pacific Deployment 2024" It is the "largest overseas deployment" the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has carried out to date, and it has caught the attention of Chinese military experts

Starting May 3, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for the first time sent a fleet of ships, including two Izumo-class aircraft carriers, to conduct a seven-month joint exercise in the Waters of Pacific and visit Indonesia.

This operation will end on December 15th.

It is the "largest overseas deployment" the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has carried out to date, and it has caught the attention of Chinese military experts.

Photo: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force website

The formation of military forces has distinctive characteristics

This Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force operation is code-named "Indo-Pacific Deployment 2024".

There are 6 surface ships participating in the exercise, including the two quasi-aircraft carriers "Izumo" and "Kaga", the destroyers "Haguro" and "Ariaki", the amphibious landing ship "Kunisaki" and the frigate "Noshiro" . Additionally, an unknown number of conventional submarines and two P-1 maritime patrol aircraft accompanied the voyage.

For comparison, when the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force was previously deployed to the Asia-Pacific region, it usually sent an Izumo-class vessel for a duration of 4-5 months.

The force composition of the Japanese large-scale overseas operation basically includes the naval composition of a general aircraft carrier formation, which can be called the "prototype of an aircraft carrier task force."

It has two quasi-aircraft carriers as the core of the formation, a landing ship is responsible for amphibious assault operations, a destroyer is responsible for the formation's air defense mission, a destroyer and a frigate are responsible for anti-submarine warfare, and conventional submarines serve as underwater covering forces.

Restricted by the "Peace Constitution", the two Japanese Izumo-class ships were originally amphibious assault ships that could only carry helicopters when they entered service, but retained the potential to be converted into aircraft carriers during their design.

In 2018, the Japanese government revised the "Defense Plan" and other documents to create conditions for the modification of the aircraft carriers of two Izumo-class ships. As it stands, both ships have completed the first phase of modification and are capable of carrying approximately 10 US-made F-35B fighter jets each, transforming them into "quasi-aircraft carriers."

Among the escort ships sent by Japan this time, "Haguro" is the No. 1 Maya-class ship. 2 of the new Japanese air defense ship "Aegis". She has a full load displacement of over 10,000 tons and has the ability to intercept ballistic missiles. The "Haguro" is a surface ship of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The Ariake is the youngest of the nine Murasame-class destroyers in service since the late 1990s and responsible for anti-submarine missions.

The "Noshiro" is a Mogami-class frigate launched in recent years. She can perform tasks such as reconnaissance and surveillance, anti-submarine escort and short-range air defense. She has a full load displacement of approximately 5,500 tonnes with ample upgrade space.

The media generally predicts that the escort submarine will likely be the Soryu class or the newer Whale class, designed to conduct real-world combat performance tests during ocean deployments.

Chinese military: there are "deep and hidden strategic considerations"

“Japan's dispatch of its major warships for a long-term overseas deployment reflects the great importance it attaches to this operation,” argues Wang Daning in an article published in the PLA military magazine 181.

According to the plan of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, these ships will form four maritime combat groups, visit the United States, the Philippines, Australia, India and several Pacific island countries respectively, and participate in the 2024 multinational joint exercises that will will be held in the regions, including those held in French Polynesia. This will include the "Malala" exercise, the Australian-led "Kakadu" exercise, the US-led "Rim of the Pacific" and "Pacific Dragon" exercises, the joint US-led "Malabar" exercise India, etc.

Chinese analysts believe there are deep strategic considerations behind Japan's unprecedented deployment abroad.

Chinese analysts believe there are deep strategic considerations behind Japan's unprecedented deployment abroad.

Respond to the US “Indo-Pacific strategy” and free itself from the constraints of the “post-war system”. According to Wang Daning, "Faced with the US regional strategy that focuses on reshaping the alliance system, Japan has demonstrated its attitude of participation and cooperation through this investment of strength. It can therefore rely on the strengthened version of the alliance US-Japan to deepen cooperative relations with United States s regional allies."

Japan attempts to increase acceptance of its "normalization" in the military by participating in military activities abroad, especially the growing number of joint exercises, and to accumulate "connections" to continue to overcome the restrictions of the "peace constitution."

Work with the US Navy to improve warfighting capabilities as soon as possible

According to reports, the main activity of the exercise of the Japanese ships is "coordinated operations" with the US Navy.

Given that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force does not yet have practical experience in using modern aircraft carriers and that F-35B fighter planes are not yet in service, joint operations will help it quickly accumulate experience.

Also, according to the planned plan, in November this year the "Kaga" will travel to the east coast of the United States to conduct "integration tests" with F-35B fighter aircraft. Before receiving carrier-borne aircraft, Japan will preemptively conduct cooperative training with aircraft carriers, subordinate ships and even allied warships, aiming to shorten the delivery time of embarked aircraft and allow the carrier formation to quickly gain effectiveness in combat.

"Related moves are cause for alarm," Chinese military experts say

The Japanese government said this overseas deployment aims to "enhance Japan's joint combat capabilities with regional allies and promote regional peace and stability." Indeed, Japan's move is emblematic of its accelerated strengthening of military operations abroad.

Japan is, therefore, expanding its military partnership network by establishing regular consultation and liaison mechanisms, signing bilateral and multilateral military agreements, and participating in joint military exercises.

As a “prelude” to this move, in mid-April, Japan made a high-profile announcement that it would send “special security forces” to several countries in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time to support its maritime patrol activities. , such as boarding and inspection of ships.

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