The Izumo-class helicopter destroyer (いずも型護衛艦, Izumo-gata-goei-kan) or 22DDH is a type of new helicopter carrier class constructed for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The ships of this class will be the largest surface combatants of the JMSDF, taking over the mantle currently held by the Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. The lead ship was officially unveiled at Yokohama on 6 August 2013.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD) first announced plans for the class on 23 November 2009. This ship's primary mission is anti-submarine warfare (ASW) but peacekeeping and disaster relief operations are also being considered.
The ship carries up to 28 aircraft. However, only 7 ASW helicopters and 2 search and rescue (SAR) helicopters are planned for the initial aircraft complement. For other operations, 400 troops and 50 3.5 ton trucks (or equivalent equipment) can also be carried. The flight deck has 5 helicopter landing spots that allow simultaneous landings or take-offs. The ship is equipped with 2 Phalanx CIWS and 2 SeaRAM for its defense. The destroyers of this class were initially intended to replace the two ships of the Shirane class, which were originally scheduled to begin decommissioning in FY2014.
In 2010, Forecast International reported that some design features were intended to support fixed wing aircraft such as the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, although neither the MOD nor the JMSDF have mentioned the possibility of introducing carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft. The ship has neither a "ski-jump" nor a catapult, typical features for launching fixed-wing aircraft. If the Izumo class were to operate fixed-wing aircraft, they would be limited to those capable of STOVL (short take-off, vertical landing) operations; Japan has acquired the F-35A for use by the JASDF, but has not indicated whether it would purchase the STOVL F-35B version. Even if they did, the ship's lack of a ski jump limiting the plane's range and payload, lack of specialized landing pads to withstand the F-35B's immense heat generated upon vertical thrusts, and small space to accommodate very many planes would make it a poor "offensive" aircraft carrier.
The construction of the first ship of the class began in 2011 at an IHI Marine United shipyard in Yokohama, with funding totalling 113.9 billion yen ($1.5 billion) being set aside in the fiscal 2010 budget for this purpose.
In September 2011, the Asahi Shinbun reported that the Ministry of Defence was to proceed with a budget request calling for funds for the construction of the planned second unit in the class. The request was approved and the construction contract was awarded to IHI Corporation in October 2012. This will come under the Defense Ministry's Mid-Term Defense Program FY2011-2015. The first ship in the class, Izumo was launched on 6 August 2013.
Izumo was named after Izumo Province (出雲国, Izumo no kuni) (present-day Shimane Prefecture), and Kaga after Kaga Province (加賀国, Kaga no kuni) (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture).
On 6 August 2013 JS Izumo was unveiled in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan. The Washington Post noted that this ship, the biggest warship in Japan's fleet since World War II, "has raised eyebrows in China and elsewhere because it bears a strong resemblance to a conventional aircraft carrier" and has been described by the Chinese, as an “aircraft-carrier in disguise”. Though called a destroyer, some experts believe the new Japanese ship could potentially be used in the future to launch fighter jets or other fixed wing aircraft.
Japanese officials say it will be used in national defense. Specifically, they cited anti-submarine warfare and border-area surveillance missions. Additionally, it is intended to bolster the nation’s ability to transport personnel and supplies in response to large-scale disasters. This unveiling occurred at a time of heightened tensions over the Senkaku Islands.