The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has reportedly begun sea trials of its largest helicopter carrier, the JS Izumo on September 29.
Izumo and another unnamed ship will replace the JMSDF’s two Shirane-class destroyers JS Shirane and JS Kurama respectively. Izumo is the largest military ship built by Japan since Second World War and can carry up to 14 helicopters.
Izumo’s sea trials are being carried out in preparation for the vessel's impending commissioning. "The trials have started and will go on for about six months before we commission it in 2015", Lieutenant Commander Yasushi Kojima of the Maritime Staff Office was quoted as saying by IHS Jane's .
Kojima did not reveal the exact nature of the trials and neither the date they started.
According to IHS Jane's Fighting Ships, Izumo will be equipped with OQQ-22 bow-mounted sonar for submarine prosecution while defense against anti-ship missiles will be provided by two Raytheon RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile Sea RAM launchers.
Despite concerns raised by Japan's neighbors, the vessel's comparative lack of offensive weapons seem to corroborate with claims by JMSDF officials that it will be deployed mainly for border surveillance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions.
Besides embarking aircraft such as Sikorsky/Mitsubishi SH-60K Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters and the AgustaWestland/Kawasaki MCH-101s, Izumocan accommodate 970 personnel, including the ship's crew and Japan Ground Self-Defence Force troops.
Izumo is scheduled for commissioning in March 2015 while DDH 184 is due to be launched in August the same year by Yokohama-based shipbuilder IHI Marine United. The second vessel's induction is anticipated for March 2017.