Tag Archives: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

Racing Stripes of the Philippine Sea

There is a good reason why so many “coast guards” around the globe have racing stripes similar to the one the U.S. Coast Guard adopted in the 1960s.

The USCG does a lot of unsung nation-building operations around the world and has done so for years. The fact is, a low-tech cutter is often a better training mesh with the navy or maritime patrol force of a small coastal nation. One of the longest relationships is with the Japan Coast Guard, which was founded in May 1948 as the Japan Maritime Safety Agency– notably six years and two months prior to the current Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.

In an ode to the past, and with eyes on the future, the huge (9,300-ton) Shikishima-class patrol vessel Akitsushima (PLH-32) of the JCG last month conducted exercises near the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands in the Philippine Sea with the West Pac-deployed 4,600-ton Bertholf-class National Security Cutter USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756). The drills included operating “helicopters, small boats, and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters.”

The two ships looked great together.

Of note, Akitsushima, while the same size as a DDG, is very lightly armed for her tonnage, carrying only two 35mm twin Oerlikons and two optically-trained 20mm Vulcans. She does have an impressive 20,000nm range and the capability to carry two large Super Puma helicopters.

Kimball is a bit better armed, roughly to the level of an old OHP-class frigate (once they lost their one-armed bandits) or to nearly the same standard as the baseline LCS with a 57mm MK110, a CIWS-1B/BL2, and six crew-served MGs as well as soft-kill countermeasures and a Slick-32. Would be a whole lot nicer if they had an ASW suite, an 8-pack of NSMs, and another of VLS ESSMs, but hey, it is still 2021.

Of note, the Ogasawaras are some 600 miles south of Tokyo and are sparsely populated, earning them the nickname of the “Galápagos of the Orient,” making them a target for illegal fishing and other activities. Naturally, military history buffs will recognize the names Chichijima and Iwo Jima in the chain.

The Rising Sun leading the way

Click to bigup

Click to bigup

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Shirane-class destroyer JS Kurama (DDH 144) leads the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101) and USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a passing exercise while under way in the Pacific Ocean Jan. 10, 2011. Stockdale and Gridley were underway at the time with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group on a deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans, U.S. Navy/Released)

Do you notice how much beamier the two U.S. Burkes are (as Flight IIA vessels they are over 10,000-tons on a 509-foot long hull with a 66-foot beam) when compared to the Japanese ship?

The Kurama is a rather dated Shirane-class destroyer, of which just two were built in the late 70s. Just 7,500-tons full load and 522 feet long, they were big tin cans for thier day, mounting a pair of old school  FMC 5″/54 caliber Mark 42 guns forward to allow room for a large helicopter deck aft that can accommodate 3-4 medium ASW helicopters. They are reported to be excellent ASW ships with an OG style ASROC launcher, bow active and towed passive sonars, and Mk.32 tubes all of which would come in handy against a DPRK or PLAN underwater threat.

Here is a profile shot from the same day, same photographer.

100110-N-7981E-141
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 10, 2011) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Kurama (DDH-144) is underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans/Released)