|SPECIFICATIONS||PHOTOGRAPHS (Click on the pictures for an enlarged photo)|
Length: 590 ft
Width: 82 ft
Beam: 82 ft
Displacement: 12,000 tons (full load)
Propulsion: 2 Mitsui 16V42M-A Diesels, 2 shafts
Speed: 22 knots
Airwing: 6 helos
- 2 X 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS
Well deck: 2 LCAC
Ships in class: 3
With the obvious look of small carriers, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) went to great ends to assure those nations who expressed concern that these ships were not offensive weapons (prohibited by the Japanese constitution) and that they were not "aircraft carriers".
In an effort to reach that end politically, the ships were designated as Landing Ship Tanks (LST) officially, though they are clearly of a more Amphibious assault nature, providing a well deck for two air cushioned landing craft and other traditional landing craft, and air assault via helicopter from on board their large deck.
The well deck streteches forward to the island and houses two LCACs. Forward, there is a 100m hanger deck below the main deck, and a single elevator accesses tis space.
Modernization plans call for the hanger elevator to be enlargened to accomodate a V-22 Osprey aircraft, and for the flight deck to be treated to withstand the heat a Oprey VTOL aircraft would generate. The hanger spaces bcan also be used for vehicle storage where the fighting and/or armored vehicles can access the well deck. Helicopters (and later Ospreys) can also be stored and serviced there.
The Osumi class is a amphibious assault vessel. In a pinch its helos could serve in either a mine-hunting/clearing role or in ASW duties, but it is clear the vessel was in fact designed for amphibious operations. A designation of LPD or even a small LPH would be more accurate given the role of these vessels.
In answer to the Japanese development and commissioning of these ships, the South Koreans have launched the first of a new class of clear, large, Amphibious assault ships, the Dokdo Class. The South Koreans are making no bones about this ship and its capabilities, and they are not constrained by their constitution to do so. They will be strong LPH class vessels with the potential and sixe for VSTOL aircraft, but no announced intentions to embark them.
Perhaps in answer to that development, the JMSDF has built and launched an even more carrier-like vessel. These two new vessels are not suited for the Amphibious role and appear to be more, true, sea control vessels. Although they will be designated as DDH, or helicopter carrying destroyers similar to the four traditional destroyers the JMSDF already has, with a larger deck and the hanger spaces to accomodate numerous aircraft, it is clear these new vessels of the HYuga class, will be more traditional small aircraft carriers.
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