Japan's Third Aegis Destroyer Sees Many Firsts

By Lieutenant Commander Vance A. Brahosky, U.S. Naval Reserve

Led by a U.S. Aegis combat system team leader and combat systems project engineer, the Myoko 's crew evaluated all elements of the Aegis combat system, including the AN/SPY-1D radar, all computers, the weapon-control system, the command-and-decision system, all aspects of fire control, from illuminators to the vertical launching system, and all support areas such as 400 Hz stable electrical, electronic cooling, and dry air subsystems. Preventive maintenance procedures were conducted by the Myoko crew, assisted by U.S. Navy and defense industry subject-matter experts. As equipment problems and deficiencies were discovered they were documented and resolved, either by follow-on technical assistance at the organizational level or via accelerated parts delivery. Supply support was critical, and an officer representative from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Naval Supply Support Command worked directly with the CSSQT team to ensure timely delivery of essential parts from Japan.

The two most important aspects of this phase were ensuring that all equipment worked properly and that the crew knew how to operate it.

Essential Briefings

A full schedule of meetings and briefings was set to ensure that all those in decision-making positions were informed early and often on all aspects of the project. The kick-off briefing was the ship readiness review held at Maizuru, Japan, the Myoko 's home port. This gave the green light that all required facets, such as manning, ordnance, funding, schedules, and operational areas were in place. Briefings continued throughout the trials, to include antiair warfare lessons learned, missile range readiness safety review, Aegis antiair warfare core doctrine review, and mission readiness reviews before the expenditure of each type of ordnance (vertical-launch antisubmarine rocket, close-in weapon system, 175-mm main gun, and Standard missile).

The commanding officer of the Myoko , Captain Nobuharu Yasui, directed that senior officers in his combat systems department actively participate in every critical briefing. Given this direction, the team established co-presentations to allow both JMSDF and U.S. Navy viewpoints to be portrayed.

Firing Team Rehearsals

"You will be severe in the training of my crew!" This order from the captain of the Myoko established a very clear policy of rigorous training for the antiair warfare missile firing teams. Knowing that his ship would be firing SM-2 missiles against the most difficult scenarios ever presented to the JMSDF, he wanted to ensure that his teams were prepared. Whenever the ship was at sea, time was made to support firing team training.

The desire to provide numerous opportunities for stressful training was made more urgent by the fact that the scheduled firing of the Myoko 's close-in weapon system (CIWS) at drone targets came on the heels of the accidental shoot down of a U.S. Navy manned aircraft by a JMSDF destroyer during RIMPAC '96 at-sea exercises in June 1996. In fact, the JMSDF had imposed a moratorium on the firing of CIWS in their fleet until the Myoko 's firing evolution could be demonstrated safely. In addition, the Myoko was to fire the 175-mm gun weapon system on several drone targets—a first for JMSDF Aegis combat system trials—which necessitated extra training.

By maximizing time at sea, and by drilling in port at Pearl Harbor, the Myoko was able to participate in missile firings with 100 hours more training time than her predecessors. This included several hundred mock engagements with CIWS and the 175-mm gun weapon system.

The Myoko completed all her combat systems ship qualification trials successfully, including the firing of two vertical launch antisubmarine rockets—one from the forward vertical launch system and one from aft—firing from both CIWS mounts against a towed sleeve target, and firing ten SM-2 missiles from various cells in both the forward and aft vertical launchers. The trials also saw the first Block III SM-2 variant to be fired from a foreign naval vessel; the first use of the Aegis command-all-the-way feature, which allows for the firing of missiles without fire-control illuminators; a drone target engaged at the lowest altitude and smallest radar cross section in the history of JMSDF missile firings; and the first use of the 175-mm gun weapon system to destroy a drone target.

The Asia-Pacific region requires a military presence to ensure peace and stability. The bilateral security arrangements between Japan and the United States, and specifically the professional and personal relationships established between the JMSDF Aegis fleet and the U.S. Navy as a result of combat systems ship qualification trials, contribute significantly to this stability.

Lieutenant Commander Brahosky , a naval reserve engineering duty officer, is a federal civil service employee. While on active duty, he served as officer-in-charge for the Myoko combat systems ship qualification trials.



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