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Japan Considering Bid to Join Royal Australian Navy’s New General Purpose Frigate Project

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Japan Considering Bid to Join Royal Australian Navy’s New General Purpose Frigate Project

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Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-class frigate
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-class frigate

Recent developments indicate that Japan is contemplating a significant stride in its defense collaboration with Australia, poised to potentially embark on a joint venture to develop new general purpose frigates. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan eyes refurbishing its Maritime Self-Defense Force’s cutting-edge destroyer, potentially exporting it to Australia as part of this cooperative effort. Should Japan secure this bid among competing nations, the endeavor promises substantial advancements for Japan’s defense industry. Australia’s pursuit of 11 general-purpose frigates for its Navy has set the stage for collaboration, with Japan joining the ranks of candidates alongside Spain, South Korea, and Germany. As Australia prepares to unveil detailed performance specifications later this year, Japan anticipates receiving proposals for joint development, initiating informal discussions with entities like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., a key player in destroyer construction for the MSDF.

The proposed blueprint involves leveraging Japan’s Mogami-class destroyer, renowned for its operational efficiency with a crew half the size of conventional ships and integrated minesweeping capabilities. This adaptability aligns well with Australia’s priorities, potentially paving the way for a mutually beneficial partnership. Amid escalating Chinese activities in the East and South China Seas, this collaboration serves as a strategic deterrent, fostering closer operational synergy between Japan and Australia. Furthermore, it stands to bolster Japan’s defense industry, offering economic incentives domestically. Japan’s previous setback in joint submarine development with Australia in 2016 underscores the competitive landscape, with Spain and South Korea already having stakes in Australia’s defense equipment development. As Japan vies for this opportunity, close scrutiny of rival proposals and maneuvers remains imperative.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-class Frigate JS Agano (FFM-6).
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-class Frigate JS Agano (FFM-6). (Photo by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

The Mogami-class frigate (Mogami-gata-goei-kan, also known as 30FFM) is a Japanese multi-mission stealth frigate for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), intended for surveillance missions in waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago, including the East China Sea. This frigate class is equipped with enhanced multirole capabilities, including the ability to conduct anti-mine warfare operations, which until now have been performed by the JMSDF’s ocean-going minesweepers. Displacing 3,900 tons standard and 5,500 tons fully loaded, the Mogami class is 435-feet long with a 53-foot beam. The warships incorporate numerous signature reduction measures to enhance stealth. The frigates carry a wide range of sensors, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar in an integrated mast, electro-optic and infrared detection systems, towed-array and variable-depth sonars for submarine hunting, and a hull-mounted sonar for mine-hunting.

The Mogami-class is powered by a combined diesel and gas (CODAG) propulsion system featuring two MAN 12V28/33D STC diesel engines and one Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine, which provide a total of 70,000 horsepower. The Mogami class marks the first installment of a CODAG system on any JMSDF ship. An 11-round SeaRAM point-defense launcher for Rolling Airframe Missiles can be found atop the helicopter hangar, along with space for eight of Japan’s new 250-mile-range Type 17 antiship cruise missiles. One Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun is mounted forward, while .50-caliber remotely operated guns and lightweight torpedo launchers round out their armament. The frigates are currently fitted for, but not equipped with, a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS), which will be installed in the future. The VLS will likely contain quad-packed Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles for medium-range air defense and vertical launch antisubmarine rockets for antisubmarine warfare.

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