Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)’s Kaga helicopter carrier, its joint-largest warship, was commissioned Wednesday.
MSDF commanders received 248 metre (813.65 ft) long vessel at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama near Tokyo, where it was docked next to its sister ship the Izumo.
The Kaga is 248 meters long, equivalent to the Izumo, which went into service in 2015, and has five helipads, The Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday.
The Kaga’s construction costs about 120 billion yen ($1.1 billion). The Kaga can carry 14 or more helicopters, which will be used to patrol against submarines. Those patrol helicopters will search for Chinese submarines, which are becoming difficult for Japan to detect due to improvements in their capabilities.
The Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that is scheduled to be introduced by the Ground Self-Defense Force can also land on and take off from the Kaga.
The MSDF now possesses four helicopter carriers: the Kaga, the Izumo and two 197-meter-long destroyers.
The addition of the Kaga enables Japan to mount overseas operations more often in the future. The Japanese ships can operate up to nine helicopters each from their decks. They resemble the amphibious assault carriers used by US Marines, but lack their well deck for launching landing craft and other vessels.
As Japan's second big helicopter destroyer entered service to sail through the South China Sea, it has been warned by China against triggering tensions in the disputed waterway.