Another Step Along The Way

TOKYO — With tensions on the Korean Peninsula running high, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted an operation to safeguard U.S. vessels for the first time since the country enacted new security legislation allowing such actions in March last year.

The MSDF helicopter carrier Izumo left the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, on Monday morning. The mission, ordered by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, is aimed at deterring the North Korean regime, which attempted to test fire a ballistic missile on Saturday, from further provocations by demonstrating a robust U.S.-Japan alliance.

Actually, it’s more than that. Even ten years ago such a mission would’ve been unthinkable for the Japanese, what with their state-mandated pacifism in the aftermath of the Pacific War.

Under the new legislation, Japan’s SDF can provide protection for U.S. forces in ordinary times using a limited, minimum number of weapons to the extent needed to carry out a mission.

Baby steps, Hiroshi, baby steps. But at least they’re taking them.

It bears noticing the way in which the Japanese Government is soft-selling the Izumo: the official designation is DDH-183. “DD” is destroyer, and the “H”, of course, means helicopter. That’s a pretty interesting way to designate a ship that any casual observer would instantly recognize as an aircraft carrier. And when one decides to embark VTOL aircraft, such as the Harrier or the F-35, Japan will gain a force projection capability she hasn’t had since 1945. Alright, technically 1944 when she lost all her carrier-qualified pilots, but you get my drift.

And let’s take a minute to look at the naming conventions. The IJN Izumo was an armored cruiser (built by the Brits, FYI) in the very late 19th Century. She participated in the Russo-Japanese War, y’know, the war that let the world know that Japan was going to be a major player on the world stage. Some various duties leading up to, and during WW1. A very minor role in WW2, which made the name both traditional and bereft of any controversy.

Now let’s take a look at the second “helicopter destroyer” in the class: the JS Kaga. Both Infogalactic articles say that the ships are named after provinces, and while that’s true (so far as it goes), you know just as well as I do that the Japanese are naming these ships after ones that served in earlier times and conflicts. Just as we have had nine ships named Enterprise over the years, including two that served before the formal founding of the US Navy. And let’s not forget the training building that’s being built that will be commissioned as the tenth USS Enterprise.

Enough digression. The Kaga is named after this ship:

She participated in the Pearl Harbor raid and was sunk at the battle of Midway, ironically by aircraft flying off the 7th USS Enterprise*. That the Japanese are shaking off the government-imposed shame of WW2 can be nothing but good for both Japan and us in the future. We need friends in east Asia, particularly strong and well-armed ones. And do I need to mention ones who have about the same amount of salt water flowing through their veins as we do? Nah, you’re smart girls and boys and you already figured that out.

Banzai Kaga!

*Technically/Officially that Enterprise (CV-6) was the fifth, but I’m including the two pre-USN ships.

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