On 23 August, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force launched the first of a new four-ship class of helicopter-carrying destroyers. Named Hyuga , the warship was originally thought to be numbered in sequence with similar helicopter-carrying warships and assigned the pennant number DDH 145, but the ship was numbered DDH 181. Built by Marine United shipyard in Yokohama, the Hyuga was laid down on 11 May 2006 and is expected to commission in March 2009. The second unit is expected in service around 2011. Costing roughly $920 million in 2004 dollars, the Hyuga is the largest combatant vessel built for the Japanese Navy since World War II. Displacing 18,000 tons (full load)—more than Italy's 14,000-ton Giuseppe Garibaldi or Spain's 17,000-ton Príncipe de Asturias vertical/short take-off and landing–type aircraft carriers—the ship will likely carry three SH-60 Seahawk helicopters plus one MH-53 mine countermeasures helicopter, but is capable of carrying up to 11 CH-47 Chinook-size aircraft. Although fitted with a large hangar deck, the type is classified as a destroyer rather than an aircraft carrier solely for political purposes in keeping with Japan's pacifist consititution. It is difficult to characterize an aircraft carrier as a defensive weapon; less so a destroyer. In addition to its aircraft loadout, the class will be armed with two 20-mm close-in weapon systems, two triple-torpedo tubes and a 16-cell vertical-launch system capable of launching ESSM or ASROC missiles.
A ceremony on 21 August marked the official start of production for the initial unit in the second batch of Type 212A-class submarines being built for the German Navy. The two submarines, to be named U 35 and U 36 , are planned to enter service in 2012 and 2013 respectively, at which time they will join four older sisters, U 31 , U 32 , U 33 , and U 34 , all built to the same design. This newest batch of air-independent propulsion–capable submarines differs slightly from the original boats with the addition of improved sensor and communications technology providing better detection and network-centric operations. The submarines are built under the aegis of Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) shipyard alliance and displace 1,460 tons while surfaced and 1,840 tons when submerged.
The Diponegoro , the first of an advanced class of Indonesian Navy corvettes, was commissioned into service this past July, and turned over to the Indonesian fleet. Launched in September 2006 and built by Schelde Shipbuilding in Vlissingen, Netherlands, the 91-meter, 1,700-ton corvette is fitted with an aft helicopter deck, but no hangar, and is armed with Exocet surface-to-surface missiles, Mistral surface-to-air missiles, a single 76-mm dual-purpose cannon, and two single 20-mm antiaircraft guns. Three younger sisters— Hasanuddin , Sultan Iskandar Muda , and Frans Kaisiepo —are expected to join the fleet by 2009. Soon after being handed over to the Indonesian Navy, the Diponegoro took part in Dutch festivities commemorating the birth of the naval hero Michiel de Ruyter and subsequently sailed to her new home port of Surabaya by way of Spain, Italy, and the Suez Canal.
Mr. Wertheim, a defense consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, is the author of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15th edition , currently available from the Naval Institute Press at www.usni.org .