On 23 August, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force launched the first of a new four-ship class of helicoptercarrying 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 Principe 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.
By Eric Wertheim