YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- Japan on Tuesday unveiled its biggest warship since World War II, a huge flat-top destroyer that has raised eyebrows in China and elsewhere because it bears a strong resemblance to a conventional aircraft carrier.
The ship, which has a flight deck that is nearly 250 meters (820 feet) long, is designed to carry up to 14 helicopters. Japanese officials say it will be used in national defense — particularly in anti-submarine warfare and border-area surveillance missions — and to bolster the nation's ability to transport personnel and supplies in response to large-scale natural disasters, like the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Though the ship — dubbed "Izumo" — has been in the works since 2009, its unveiling comes as Japan and China are locked in a dispute over several small islands located between southern Japan and Taiwan. For months, ships from both countries have been conducting patrols around the isles, called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyutai in China.
The Japanese call this ship a 'helicopter-carrying destroyer', but it is easily a small carrier in all but name. She is supposed to displace 27,000 tons fully loaded, bigger than the British Illustrious class carriers and the Spanish Juan Carlos I carrier. To put the size of the ship into context, she is comparable with a World War II Essex-class fleet carrier. The air wing size of 14 helicopters is also small; other similar ships can carry up to 30 aircraft, a mix of both fixed wing and rotary wing assets.
The Japanese have a sister ship planned as well, and with the two Izumo class 'destroyers' and the two Hyūga's, the Japanese essentially have a 4 carrier fleet in the wings if needed. Coupled with the speculation about another class of even bigger 'helicopter destroyers' that some have dubbed 26DDH, it appears the Japanese believe naval aviation is in their future.
[Edited 2013-08-06 18:40:07]