Naval Warfare

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launches Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class Frigate JS Natori

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launches Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class Frigate JS Natori

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launches Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class Frigate JS Natori
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launches Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class Frigate JS Natori

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has successfully launched the JS Natori, the ninth vessel in a planned fleet of 12 Mogami-class multirole frigates for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The 133-meter-long frigate (pennant number FFM-9) was christened and launched during a ceremony on June 24 at MHI’s Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagasaki Prefecture. The JS Natori is named after the Natori River (名取川, Natori-gawa), which runs through Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan. This naming convention follows the tradition of the Mogami-class frigates, all of which are named after prominent Japanese rivers. JS Natori holds historical significance as it is the second Japanese naval ship to carry this name, succeeding the third Nagara-class light cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Mogami-class frigates are designed to provide advanced capabilities similar to those of the Akizuki-class destroyers but with a smaller crew and reduced Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells. Following its launch, the frigate will undergo the fitting-out process, with delivery and commissioning scheduled for the end of fiscal year 2025, according to JMSDF. The commissioning of JS Natori comes at a time when Japan is enhancing its maritime defenses, particularly around the southwestern Nansei island chain. This strategic region, which includes the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, is a focal point for increased surveillance missions aimed at countering the expanding naval capabilities of neighboring China.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class multirole frigate JS Natori. (Photo by MHI)
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class multirole frigate JS Natori. (Photo by MHI)

This design reflects Japan’s broader defense strategy, as outlined in the December 2022 Defense Buildup Program guidance, to replace older destroyers and Abukuma-class destroyer escorts with more modern, versatile frigates. JS Natori, built under a contract valued at approximately 51.4 billion yen ($322 million) awarded in March 2023, features a compact hull with a displacement of 3,900 tonnes, a beam of 16.3 meters, and a draught of 9 meters. The frigate is manned by a crew of about 90 personnel. The vessel is powered by a Combined Diesel and Gas (CODAG) propulsion system, a first for any JMSDF ship, which includes two MAN 12V28/33D STC diesel engines and one Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine. This system enables the frigate to achieve speeds exceeding 30 knots.

The JS Natori is armed with a BAE Systems 5-inch (127-mm) 62-caliber Mk 45 Mod 4 naval gun system and two Japan Steel Works 12.7mm Remote Weapon Systems. Its Mk.41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with 16 cells, Raytheon SeaRAM, and eight MHI Type 17 (SSM-2) anti-ship missiles enhance its offensive capabilities. For detection and tracking, the frigate employs Mitsubishi Electric’s OPY-2 multifunction radar and OAX-3 EO/IR sensors, while Hitachi’s OQQ-11 anti-mine sonar and NEC’s OQQ-25 anti-submarine sonar (VDS/TASS) provide robust underwater defense. Additionally, the JS Natori is equipped with unmanned systems, including the OZZ-5 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle by MHI and an Unmanned Surface Vehicle by JMU Defense Systems, dedicated to mine countermeasures, and can deploy sea mines for offensive operations.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class multirole frigate JS Natori. (Photo by MHI)
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-Class multirole frigate JS Natori. (Photo by MHI)

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