JMSDF BMD-capable Destroyer JS Haguro Starts Sea Trials

The last of Japan’s eight planned destroyers capable of intercepting ballistic missiles has started sea trials ahead of its commissioning, even as the country ponders its next move following its decision to suspend plans to introduce ground-based systems for that role.

The destroyer Haguro left shipbuilder Japan Marine United Corporation’s shipyard at Isogo, near Yokohama and south of the Japanese capital Tokyo, this morning for its first sea trials.

DDG-180 Haguro is expected to be commissioned with the JMSDF in 2021.

The ship is to be commissioned in 2021. It is 170 meters long, displaces 8,200 tons and is fitted with 96 Mk 41 Vertical Launching System cells that can fire a variety of missiles, including those used for ballistic missile defense.

JS Haguro is the second ship of two Maya-class destroyers for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and it’s the country’s eighth destroyer to be equipped with the Aegis combat system for air and ballistic missile defense.

The sea trials for the Haguro comes as Japan scrambles for a solution following its decision last week to suspend plans to deploy the Aegis Ashore system. Japan had planned to deploy two such systems, with one each at the north and south of its main island of Honshu, to provide early warning and interception coverage for the entire country against North Korean ballistic missiles.

National broadcaster NHK reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to hold a meeting with the country’s national security community this week to withdraw the Aegis Ashore deployment plan and set a new direction for the country’s security strategy, possibly seeking an alternative to Aegis Ashore.

NHK added that one of the alternatives would be for Japan to increase its standoff strike capability to enable it to conduct retaliatory strikes against launch facilities used to conduct missile strikes against Japan. However, this is likely to face strident political opposition, including from the party with which Abe has formed a governing coalition.

JS Maya during sea trials earlier this month. Picture by Japanese ships spotter @Alsace_class

JS Maya is the first of a new class of improved destroyers with ballistic missile defense capabilities. Her keel was laid in April 2017 and she was launched on July 30th 2018.

The new destroyer class is 170 meters long and displaces 8,200 tons. She will operate with a crew of 310 sailors, and features a combined diesel electric and gas (COGLAG) propulsion system.

The Maya-class is the first of JMSDF’s Aegis destroyers ready for ballistic missile defense operations (BMD) from the time of commissioning, and is also the first of Japan’s AEGIS fleet to be equipped with Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) from the start. The CEC allows the ship to receive targeting information from other assets, such as US Navy of Royal Australian Navy AEGIS destroyers or American and Japanese E-2D AWACS aircraft. Japan has four E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft on order, with the first one delivered on March 29 to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

JS Haguro on launch day. Picture by Japanese ships spotter @Alsace_class

Fitted with the AEGIS Baseline J7 combat system and the Northrop Grumman AN/SPQ-9B radar system, both JS Maya and JS Haguro destroyers will be able to fire the latest iteration of Raytheon’s SM-3 ballistic defense missile. Being jointly developed by the U.S. and Japan, the SM-3 Block IIA features larger rocket motors that will allow it to defend broader areas from ballistic missile threats and a larger kinetic warhead.

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