Considering the current territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands it makes sense that the Japanese would be ramping up the offensive capabilities of their Navy:
So far, so low key: no one could accuse the JMSDF of an expansionist agenda – just a steady ramping up of the “defensive-minded” capabilities at which it already excels. But if you are looking for evidence of a slightly more proactive stance to match Japan’s new policy of “active deterrence”, then some recent procurements and exercises make the picture a little more interesting.
First up are the navy’s new 22DDH helicopter carriers, the first of which is currently being built by IHI Marine in Yokohama and will be ready in 2015. At 248 m long and with a displacement of 27,000 tons (full), it dwarfs the 197-m long, 19,000-ton Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers” that are currently the JMSDF’s largest vessels. Like the Hyuga class, two are being built.
Unlike the Hyuga and its sister ship, Ise, the 22DDH will not be fitted with a torpedo launch system aboard, instead relying on its seven ASW helicopters to fulfill that task. What is clear about 22DDH (which derives its name from the 22nd year of the Heisei era – or 2010), is that it could quite easily double up as the kind of light aircraft carrier that the U.S. Marine Corps uses for expeditionary operations, although it lacks a well deck (something that a senior U.S. marine told me was “unforgivable” – and he was only half joking).
Along with the submarine fleet’s ASW service in the Cold War, amphibious landings and island defense are among the few JMSDF operations that come close to deploying the kind of offensive capability that might rile defenders of Article 9 of the Constitution. Interestingly, it’s not a brand new capability: the JMSDF has had “true” amphibious vessels in the form of three 14,000-ton Oosumi-class dock landing ships (LSDs, officially tank-landing ships) since the late 1990s. What has changed is the threat perception: until recently the JMSDF did not train for amphibious landings and so far has resisted the urge to create a marine corps.
This is changing: in Guam in late 2012 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) rangers took part in landing training with U.S. Marines “on real islands,” in the words of a Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman, and Adm. Kawano noted that Japan’s offshore islands remain vulnerable to attack. The JGSDF practiced another amphibious landing drill recently, although this was launched from helicopters rather than ships. While no one explicitly mentioned the Senkaku Islands, a Chinese attack would provide a tantalizing test case for how confident Japanese military planners were in these upgraded capabilities. [The Diplomat]
You can read the whole article at the link.