DDH "Kaga" is being modified in order to operate the F-35B fighter.
The battleship Yamato (once the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy) was built on the same site.
Kaga, the second ship of the Izumo-class DDH, has been primarily designed to carry SH-60 helicopters and to operate as a core ship in anti-submarine warfare. In 2018, however, the Japanese government made a decision to modify the Izumo-class DDH to allow it to operate F-35B fighter jets. The main purpose of this is to strengthen air defense capabilities, especially in the Pacific region, and to complement the operation of the F-35B by the U.S. Navy’s LHA/LHD. It is also believed to be aimed at strengthening Japan’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region on the occasion of the Indo-Pacific Deployment (IPD), a long-term deployment of Izumo-class DDHs and other destroyers in the Indo-Pacific region that has been conducted for the past several years.
The modification of the Izumo-class is divided into two phases. The first ship, Izumo, has already completed its first modification in 2021. In October of the same year, the first landing and takeoff demonstration test with the U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B was conducted. The modifications that Izumo underwent included a new heat-resisting coating on the flight deck to withstand the exhaust heat of the F-35B as well as new yellow markings. The second phase of the modification for Izumo is scheduled to begin in March 2025, where the bow shape of the flagship will be changed from trapezoidal to rectangular to make it easier for the F-35B to launch. The interior of the ship will also be modified. The modifications are expected to be completed by early 2027.
Unlike its sister-ship, the current modification of the Kaga is a very large-scale project that not only makes the flight deck heat resistant with new markings, but also includes changes to the shape of the bow. The difference can be seen in the modification cost: the Izumo‘s first modification cost 3.1 billion yen, while the Kaga‘s cost was 20.3 billion yen. According to the Ministry of Defense, the first modification of the Kaga is expected to take 14 months, followed by a second modification of the ship’s interior, which is expected to begin in March 2027.
F-35B deliveries to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), which will fly from the Izumo-class, is expected to begin in FY2024. Nyutabaru Airbase, located in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, is set to be their initial home base. Six aircraft will be deployed to the base in FY2024, followed by two in FY2025, and eventually one squadron (20 aircraft) will be based there.