The Japanese government’s December announcement that the country’s two helicopter-carrying destroyers Izumo (DDH-183) and Kaga (DDH-184) would be modified to carry F-35B Lightning II fighter-bombers shows the potential impact of the short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) attack aircraft. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) long has desired small carriers with fixed-wing aircraft to defend the country’s seaborne trade, but until now Japanese governments have resisted building them for fear of political and diplomatic repercussions throughout Asia. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has argued for decades that Japan must become a “normal country” with a normal capacity for self-defense. The argument has become more acceptable internationally in the face of accelerating Chinese and North Korean military growth.
F-35B Expands Definition of ‘Aircraft Carriers’
By Norman Friedman