Japan Initiates Sea Trials for Helicopter Carrier Kaga Following F-35B Modifications

JMSDF aims to convert Izumo-class carriers JS Izumo and JS Kaga into F-35B-capable aircraft carriers by FY2027.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 06:31 AM, December 28, 2023
  • 492
Japan Initiates Sea Trials for Helicopter Carrier Kaga Following F-35B Modifications
Modified JS Kaga Izumo-class helicopter carrier @JMSDF

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has commenced sea trials for its helicopter carrier JS Kaga (DDH 184) after undergoing significant modifications to accommodate F-35B fighter jets, as announced by the JMSDF on December 25.

New images shared on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), by the service's Escort Flotilla Four depict JS Kaga leaving its dock at Japan Marine United (JMU)'s shipyard in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, to undergo sea trials. The post from Escort Flotilla Four expressed excitement, stating, "Today's post is about JS Kaga during sea trials. There is only a little bit of time left until the special modification of JS Kaga is completed! We can't wait!"

JS Kaga's homeport is the JMSDF Kure Naval Base, where Escort Division Four of the Escort Flotilla Four is stationed. Although the official date of the sea trials has not been disclosed by the JMSDF, an official confirmed to Naval News that the initial sea trials took place on November 13.

Japan Initiates Sea Trials for Helicopter Carrier Kaga Following F-35B Modifications
Modified JS Kaga Izumo-class helicopter carrier @JMSDF

JS Kaga left the dock at JMU's shipyard in Kure on April 20, marking its first departure in over a year after undergoing modifications that transformed its appearance into that of a light aircraft carrier. Notable changes included the modification of the bow section of its flight deck from a trapezoid to a square shape, resembling those on the U.S. Navy's Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships.

The JMSDF plans to complete the modification of its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers, JS Izumo and JS Kaga, into aircraft carriers capable of supporting Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter aircraft operations by fiscal year 2027.

For JS Kaga, refit work at JMU's Kure shipyard began in March 2022, involving initial modifications such as reinforcing the flight deck, installing additional guidance lights, marking yellow lines on the flight deck for F-35B launches and landings, and incorporating heat-resistant deck spots for vertical landings. Fiscal year 2023 will see the acquisition of Raytheon's Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) and additional modifications to the satellite communication system.

Japan Initiates Sea Trials for Helicopter Carrier Kaga Following F-35B Modifications
Modified JS Kaga Izumo-class helicopter carrier @JMSDF

The subsequent and final modifications during Kaga's next overhaul, scheduled to begin at the end of fiscal year 2026, will include changes to the ship's interior compartments.

Meanwhile, Izumo is set to undergo modifications to the bow section of its flight deck, transforming it from a trapezoid to a square shape during the next fiscal year 2024, starting in April. The JMSDF has allocated $287.3 million (40.9 billion yen) for Izumo's bow section modifications in fiscal year 2024 and an additional $4.2 million (600 million yen) for the installation of a landing navigation system, expected to be Raytheon's JPALS. The Izumo-class vessels, measuring 248 meters in length and displacing 26,000 tons at full load, stand as the largest Japanese military ships built since the Second World War, with a capacity to carry up to 14 helicopters.

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