JS Izumo joins the fleet.

The largest Japanese naval vessel since World War II, the JS Izumo, has joined the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.

An undated photo of JS Izumo (DDH-183) underway. The ship commissioned on March 25, 2015. JMSDF Photo

Sam LaGrone, as always, brings us the news.

A 24,000-ton helicopter carrier has formally entered the fleet of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) on Wednesday making the ship the largest warship Japan has fielded since the close of World War II.

The commissioning ceremony JS Izumo (DDH-183) — the first of two for the JMSDF — was held in Yokohama and attended by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

Billed by the Japanese as a platform to assist in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations, the ship has flared regional tensions in neighbors— China especially — who view the ship as a power projection platform with a historically aggressive name.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for Izumo and her sister ship to serve as power projection platforms, but they’re certainly not optimized for it.

The ships really are configured as anti-submarine helicopter carriers (though for political reasons, they’re designated Helicopter Destroyers).

This is the second class of helicopter carriers the Japanese have built in recent years. The earlier, slightly smaller class of two Hyugas weighed in at around 19,000 tons full load. Interestingly, the Hyugas carry a more robust self defense fire control system and weapon suite. The Izumo appears to carry only the most basic self defense systems. Both classes carry impressive sonar systems.

Of course, large ships like this aren’t intended to operate independently. Instead, they form the centerpiece of an escort group with other surface ships, destroyers and frigates, to provide a “bubble” of ocean that is denied to enemy submarines, surface ships, and air assets. The Japanese actually built a class of destroyers specifically to provide escort to these larger helicopter destroyers.  Add in one of their formidable Kongo or Atago class Aegis destroyers, and a couple of conventional destroyers or frigates, and you have a very potent surface force.  But it is a sea control force, one that can deny an enemy use of a particular portion of the sea. The JMSDF lacks the ability to project power ashore and influence the enemy there. And that is, of course, by design, and in accordance with the Japanese constitution drawn up by MacArthur after World War II.

China Announces ADIZ over disputed islands.


China’s Ministry of National Defense issued an announcement of the aircraft identification rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone of the People’s Republic of China.p Following is the full text:

Announcement of the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone of the People’s Republic of China

Issued by the Ministry of National Defense on November 23

The Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, in accordance with the Statement by the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, now announces the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone as follows:

First, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must abide by these rules.

Second, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must provide the following means of identification:

1. Flight plan identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should report the flight plans to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China or the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

2. Radio identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must maintain the two-way radio communications, and respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries from the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ.

3. Transponder identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, if equipped with the secondary radar transponder, should keep the transponder working throughout the entire course.

4. Logo identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must clearly mark their nationalities and the logo of their registration identification in accordance with related international treaties.

The US establishment of an air defense system over the nation and Canada in the Cold War coincided with both the potential threat of a Soviet bomber attack, and the increase in commercial trans-oceanic flights. To give interceptors time and space to scramble to meet any potential threat, all flights that would enter US or Canadian airspace were required to identify themselves clearly, by filing a flight plan, operating a transponder, and establishing two-way radio communications with air traffic control. Any aircraft not meeting these requirements would potentially find itself intercepted by Air Defense Command, and identified, escorted, or even forced to land.   This zone was known as an Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ. Theoretically, failure to comply with ADC could even result in being shot down. The US wasn’t big on shooting down airliners, but as Korean Air 007 showed,violating  the Soviet equivalent of an ADIZ  could be deadly.

No one is really challenging the right of China to have an ADIZ over its territory. The establishment of an ADIZ over disputed international waters, however, is an extreme provocation. Almost certainly, every commercial carrier that transits the area will comply.  Failure to do so would cause virtually every insurer to cancel coverage.

But to simply accede to this pronouncement would be a de facto admission by other governments that China’s assertion of an ADIZ is legitimate. Japan especially, and perhaps other governments, will likely challenge the validity of the ADIZ. And they’ll do so with military aircraft.

This is an escalation that will lead to one side or the other losing face, or one side or the other losing airplanes. And probably lives.


On this day in 1945, representatives of the Japanese empire boarded the USS Missouri, and in a brief ceremony, signed the articles of surrender that brought to a close World War II.




Roughly 16 million Americans would serve in uniform during the war, about 10% of the population.  Four hundred thousand of them would die. A million would be wounded.

On the Axis side, Germany and Japan were devastated, and Italy in scarcely better condition.

Of the Allied powers, France and the British Empire were exhausted. Russia, while triumphant, had suffered casualties that boggle the mind to this day.

Only the United States ended the war with its population and infrastructure intact.

The war had ushered in ever greater horrors, from concentration camps, aerial bombing campaigns and of course, the atom bomb.

And if the war failed to bring universal peace to our planet, it did show a glimpse of what warfare could be in the future. That wars since then have been, by comparison, modest affairs, is , if not a good thing, better than the alternative.


China sends a message

When I saw this last night:

China’s top newspaper on Wednesday published a call for a review of Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Okinawa — home to major US bases — with the Asian powers already embroiled in a territorial row.

The lengthy article in the People’s Daily, China’s most-circulated newspaper and the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party, argued that the country may have rights to the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa.

The island is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, who are considered more closely related to Japan in ethnic and linguistic terms than to China.

The authors of the article, two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China’s top state-run think-tank, said the Ryukyus were a “vassal state” of China before Japan annexed the islands in the late 1800s.

“Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post-World War II declarations that required Japan to return Chinese territory.

I knew in my bones I’d see it at CDR Salamander’s place this morning.

China in the last 5 or so years has become increasingly expansionistic. As their military and economic power has risen, so to has a significant percentage of both the leadership and the population become more vocal about reclaiming territories they deem their own.

Ten years ago, the supposition was China primarily posed an expansionistic threat to Taiwan. Today, the emphasis has shifted away from Taiwan. That doesn’t reflect a change in mainland China’s goal for control of Taiwan, but rather a belief by many that sooner or later, Taiwan will fall effectively, if not de jure, under Chinese rule.

What is interesting in this case is that most of the previous recent disputes about maritime properties have related to areas with potential for resource exploitation such as oil, gas, or fishing rights. While there is certainly economic potential in the Ryukyus,  any Chinese control of Okinawa would best be seen as an outpost of a defensive chain, much as the Japanese used several chains of islands during World War II. For that matter, much as we use it as a forward outpost today.

This increasingly aggressive foreign policy has sparked something of an arms race along the Rim of the Pacific. South Korea, already committed to strong self defense against its nutty neighbors to the north has in the past few years put great effort into expanding its navy. Today is it fielding world class blue water destroyers and helicopter carriers. The North Koreans have virtually no navy, and while this buildup can be seen as a balance against Japan, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has long had a significant destroyer force. That force never lead to South Korea building up its navy before. Once can only conclude it is in response to the expansion of the Chinese fleet.

China is also feeling its oats along the China-India border.

One wonders what major shift in US foreign policy may have occurred in the past five years that might have encouraged China to embrace an increasingly confrontational foreign policy.  Of course, the Chinese bear ultimate responsibility for their actions, but failure of the US to provide clear leadership and an unambiguous policy in the region isn’t helping matters.

Bomb North Korea?

Hardly a day goes by where I don’t find myself in disagreement with at least something from the Op-Ed pages of the NYT. Today is no exception. It’s far more rare that I find myself in agreement with the left leaning blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Today is an exception.

University of Texas Professor of History Jeremi Suri argues that the US should preemptively strike North Korea’s ballistic missile capability.

The Korean crisis has now become a strategic threat to America’s core national interests. The best option is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable.

President Obama should state clearly and forthrightly that this is an act of self-defense in response to explicit threats from North Korea and clear evidence of a prepared weapon. He should give the leaders of South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan advance notice before acting. And he should explain that this is a limited defensive strike on a military target — an operation that poses no threat to civilians — and that America does not intend to bring about regime change. The purpose is to neutralize a clear and present danger. That is all.

Erik Loomis at LGM notes:

China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict. Well then. Might as well just bomb North Korea and see what happens!

For that matter, we might just want to consult our South Korean allies on the matter, rather than just giving them advanced notice since, after all, the inevitably resulting war would take place on their turf. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and one of the densest metroplexes on Earth, lies within easy artillery range of North Korea. I’m not entirely convinced they’d relish being plastered by thousands and thousands of artillery rounds and rockets just based on a hunch that North Korea was doing more than its usual sabre-rattling-for-aid routine.

That’s not to say I don’t take the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea seriously. Just that any serious (or even the most amateur)  student of strategy  in the nuclear era* knows there are more options on the table than shoot/don’t shoot, today, at this moment in time.  I tend to agree with URR that willfully lying to ourselves that China is a strategic partner with a shared interest in maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula is foolish. But that doesn’t mean we can’t point out to China that a full scale crisis holds greater risks to them economically and politically than it does to us, and maybe dialing it back a bit might help.  A steadfast refusal to submit to North Korean extortion for aid might be a good idea as well. And finally, if historians must weigh in on the matter, perhaps they should stick to reminding the Obama/Kerry foreign policy team of the parlous rates of returns that investing North Korean promises of good behavior in the past, when previous tantrums have been rewarded with food, fuel oil, and nuclear reactors.

*As opposed to nuclear strategy. Nuclear strategy is how to fight a nuclear war. Strategy in the nuclear era is how to avoid a nuclear war.

The F-35 and implications for allies

We tend to see the F-35 through the lens of the US military requirements. Earlier this week, Jeffrey W. Hornung offered an interesting take on the F-35:

While the Defense Ministry is responsible for choosing the F-35, officials are concerned about its delivery and price. In February, Defense Ministry officials told the U.S. government there’s a possibility of cancelling its order if things change. This followed news that the United States delayed, Italy reduced, and Australia and Canada were rethinking their acquisition plans. All of these will increase the F-35’s cost. The Defense Ministry also requested the U.S. review its FMS-based acquisition program so Japan’s defense industry can have deeper involvement in the jet so as to acquire technical know-how.

The alliance has dealt with broken promises before, and relations suffered. We saw this most recently in 2009, when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reneged on a 2006 Japanese promise to relocate troops from Okinawa to Guam, contingent on relocating Futenma to a replacement facility in northern Okinawa. The U.S. came down hard on Hatoyama. It was only after he stepped down that alliance relations could be reset and the process of rebuilding trust could begin.

The F-35 may very well be delivered on time and on cost. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case right now. Although the U.S. can’t be held legally responsible for changes in price or delivery dates under FMS rules, there will be political damage. The U.S. needs to think about how to manage this damage with its closest ally in the Asia-Pacific if the F-35 can’t be delivered as promised.

Worse, what to do if Japan cancels all or part of its order? Japan has a shrinking budget and needs new fighters. Any changes will put Japan in a precarious situation. While the other options available to the Defense Ministry weren’t 5th generation fighters, it nevertheless had other options better suited to aid its collapsing defense industry. Japanese officials are counting on the U.S. to deliver on its promise, much like the U.S. counted on Japan to deliver on its 2006 promise. Hatoyama showed the alliance how not to renege. Is the United States prepared to do any better regarding its F-35 promises?

Earlier in the article, Hornung details several changes in Japanese policy with respect to weapons development and sales, which were needed to “land” the F-35 on the western side of the Pacific.  Such underscore the economic factors in play and the high cost of cutting-edge technology.  If a nation cannot feel safe without a fifth-generation fighter, then the nation must pay for that platform – even if that means cutting legal corners to do so.

To me the F-35 is eerily similar to the F-111’s early guise, in the 1960s, as the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX).   From otherwise disparate requirements, DoD chiefs forced the Air Force and Navy to adopt a common airframe for a deep-strike interdiction bomber (um… fighter) and a long-endurance interceptor.  Tagging along were the British who ordered 50 of the F-111K variant.  One common airframe for everyone?  Sounds good.

By 1968, the F-111 program was terribly behind and over budget.  A limited initial operating capability deployment to Southeast Asia further tarnished the TFX’s record.  Tragically three aircraft losses were attributed to horizontal stabilizer malfunctions, not enemy action.  The TFX needed more development.  By that time the British and the Navy had backed out (each going on to independently pursue excellent solutions for what its worth).  Only after several more years of development did the F-111 emerge as a very capable bomber (in both tactical and strategic guises) for the USAF – serving until the late 1990s.  The Australians used their version of the F-111 up until recently.

In the 1960s, Cold War pressures meant the services could overlook some project over-runs and inefficiencies.  It was just one of the costs of being the leader of the free world, we were told.  Likewise, allies could overlook program failures, assuaged by assessments of what sat behind the iron curtain.

But in today’s world, one must worry about misguided weapons development projects.  With so much momentum behind it, I am certain the F-35 will eventually reach service at some point.  But the weapon system may prove more damaging politically than militarily.

Does the U.S. really need to worry about radiation?

Roamy here.  Blame it on the “duck and cover” exercises in the 1950’s or yellow journalism, but many people are afraid of radiation.  I can remember when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used to be known as nuclear magnetic resonance, and they changed it because people heard the word “nuclear” and said no to a useful test.  Easy enough to be afraid of something that can kill you and you can’t see it coming.

Discovery has a pretty good article here, and California has a FAQ here but I’ll distill it down further.

California is 5,000 miles away from Japan.  That’s a loooong distance for anything coming from Japan, so any radioactive elements have plenty of time and space to dissipate.  I’m telling my friends and loved ones on the West Coast that they don’t need potassium iodide – the half-life of radioactive iodine is 8 days, and it takes about that long to get here.  Furthermore, you’ll get a bigger headache from the side effects than any extremely slight benefit.  (For any children living with 20 miles of Fukushima, it’s another story.)

I learned my levels in millirem, but I’ll convert it to milliSieverts, since that’s what Japan is reporting.  (For some no-nonsense reporting on what’s going on in Japan, try World’s Only Rational Man.)

  • Radiation from Japan arriving in CA – <0.001 milliSievert (mSv) (they didn’t give a rate with this data – I’d assume per day for now.)
  • Sunbathing on the beach for a day – 0.01 mSv
  • Flying cross-country – 0.04 mSv
  • Extra yearly radiation dose if you live in a brick house instead of wood – 0.07 mSv
  • Chest X-ray – 0.1 mSv (though I’ve seen as low as 0.02 mSv)
  • CT scan – 1 to 2 mSv
  • Eating dinner off “FiestaWare” – 2 mSv 
  • Mammogram – 2 mSv
  • My allowed dose in a year where I work – 5 mSv
  • Barium enema – 3 to 15 mSv
  • Average dose to Ukrainians evacuated from Chernobyl fallout – 17 mSv
  • Average dose to Pripyat (nearest village to Chernobyl) evacuees – 430 mSv
  • What will make you sick, if received in a short amount of time – 1,000 mSv
  • What has a 50% chance of killing you, if received in a short amount of time – 5,000 mSv

If you’re going to squawk about radiation levels, I’d be more concerned with the body scanners at the airport.