Currently, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has two Izumo-class helicopter carriers including the DDH-183 Izumo and the DDH-184 Kaga both will be converted to aircraft carriers. The Izumo-class multi-purpose destroyers (22DDH) are helicopter carriers in service with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). This ship is the biggest warship in Japan’s fleet since World War II and has been described by the Chinese as an “aircraft-carrier in disguise.” The class is designated as a multi-purpose operation destroyer by the Japanese government due to limits on the Japanese Constitution prohibiting the acquisition of offensive platforms.
In February 2018, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan was planning to acquire 40 F-35B, the Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35. It was estimated that each Izumo-class carrier could operate 12 or more F-35B aircraft. On May 28 2019, President Donald Trump inspected Kaga, the second ship in the class, during his visit in Japan and supported the country’s effort for an active role in the defense and security of the Pacific region. Trump also stated that Kaga will help defend Japan and America against threats in the region and far beyond. On 30 December 2019, Japanese Ministry of Defense approved the FY2020 budget that would finance the refurbishment of the Izumo class for F-35B operation.
Izumo-class Helicopter Carriers would be used in national defense, specifically citing anti-submarine warfare and border-area surveillance missions. Additionally, it is also asserted to bolster Japan’s ability to transport personnel and supplies in response to large-scale disasters. This unveiling occurred at a time of heightened tensions over the Senkaku Islands. The ship can carry up to 28 aircraft, or 14 larger aircraft. Only seven ASW helicopters and two SAR helicopters are planned for the initial aircraft complement. For other operations, 400 troops and 50 3.5-ton trucks (or equivalent equipment) can also be carried. The flight deck has five helicopter landing spots that allow simultaneous landings and take-offs.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed that the possibility of operating fixed wing aircraft was incorporated into the design of the ships from the earliest stages of the Izumo program, but this was not made public because Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits Japan from possessing offensive military weapons such as aircraft carriers. The aircraft elevators and the deck paint were designed to handle aircraft like the F-35B, and it would be possible to add a ski-jump to the flight deck for STOVL operations. The ship is equipped with three Phalanx CIWS and two SeaRAM for her defense.