The Japanese Navy in 1945:
Of the immense fleet of the Second World War, the third largest in the world, only minor units remained. The steamer of the US Navy had rolled its manpower whose last units were deprived of fuel and immobilized. It was these last ships that survived the air raids that formed the basis of the new Japanese self-defense force under the authority of Douglas MacArthur, with a focus on the major geostrategic issue of the Soviet Pacific fleet.
As a result, far from being a modest fleet of coast guards and fishery guardians, the new JMSDF eventually had an impressive potential. Currently, the Nippon Navy ranks just third, behind the former Soviet fleet, and in front of the British fleet, a level it could never reach in the days of militarism and virulent nationalism. Strange destiny for a "self-defense" force...
The remains of "Nihon Kaigun" in 1945:
Of the huge fleet of 1941, there were no longer any ships of the line, nor cruiser, and only three destroyers, class Akizuki, and two carriers, the old Hosho (1922), demobilized, and the Katsuragi, well more recent (1944). These five units were taken into account by the new Ministry of the Navy, the second ministry of demobilization.
These ships for a few years skim the islands of the Pacific to bring home isolated Japanese garrisons. They were later retired in 1947 and demolished. The remainder of these surviving numbers consisted of coastal and light units, 53 minesweepers, former wooden submarine hunters (Cha type), and 12 light patrol boats, designed to serve as post-war trawlers.
They were assisted by high-sea patrol boats (Ukuru class) serving as supply vessels. The main role they were given was to clear Japanese waters of the 100,000 mines originally intended to block a US landing in January 1946. This force was incorporated into what was then known as the Maritime Safety Agency with two sections and to their heads, Admiral Yashio Yamamoto and Captain Tamura.
Under Article 9 of the new constitution, no military intervention force could be mobilized and the right to armed action to settle a different international could not be tolerated. However, from that time this principle was amended, if it were not to allow Japan, a maritime power, to guard its territorial waters and exercise a police role of traffic and fishing, but also later to face the Soviet threat.
By the time the Japanese shipyards, largely bombed and devastated, were again operational, the US Navy transferred some vessels to the JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force), which was founded in 1954. The maritime security agency became the main force. of Japanese Coast Guard, modeled on the US Coast Guard. From this date, the reorganized shipyards would be able to build a fleet of larger units.
Balance sheet for 1960:
The big Akizuki (1941) having been scrapped there was only the only Wakaba, ex-Nashi, an escort destroyer of the class Tachibana (1945). It remained in service until 1972. Soon the US Navy transferred two Benson / Gleaves class destroyers in 1954 (Asakaze and Hatakaze) and two others of the Fletcher class (Ariake and Yugure). They remained in operation until 1969 and 1974 respectively. The shipyards then issued the first class of Japanese post-war destroyers, the Harukaze. To these two ships succeeded the 7 Ayanami, heavier, then the 3 Murasame and the two Akizuki. All were in service in 1960. They were classic buildings with artillery.
The first were two acquisitions of the US Navy (Type GMT or Cannon class), the Asahi and Hatsuhi. They were operational from 1855 to 1975, soon joined by the first "escorts", the Akebono, turbine and the two diesel Ikazuchi. But it was mostly the 18 class Tacoma frigates (Kusu) transferred in 1953 and operational until 1970-73.
-50 Assault ships:
These were 49 ex-US LSSLs, which had their rocket launchers removed from fire support and were using their light support artillery (Ajisai class). They were retired for many, and all in 1961. There was also the Yorikutei type LSM, an old ship that served first under the French flag in Indochina.
After the transfer of the USS Mingo (Gato class) in 1955, under the name of Kuroshio, Japan launched its first classic attack submarine, the Oyashio in 1959.
Classes Awaji, Reburn, Chifuri, and Yahagi, built from 1951. There were also the 12 Ukishima, dating from 1945 and partially rebuilt, and the small Yuhibari
, former auxiliary SM hunters of 1945, with 26 units survivors in 1960 (about to retire after their long demining work).
There were the Ukuru, 5 former 1944 high-sea patrolmen reused as tankers and minesweepers. They were scrapped in 1963-66. From 1955, the Americans delivered 9 YMS (Etajima class), 4 AMS / MSC (Yashima class) and Yashiro delivered the Yashiro in 1956, and the two Atada, larger ones. In addition, the Erimo, a wet smuggler / deep sea minesweeper was issued in 1955 and Tsugaru, a cable dragger / dredger in 1955.
-10 Sub hunters:
They were the 7 Kamomes, very inspired by the 1955-56 PC-Boats, the 1957 Great Hayabusa and the 1959 Umitaka.
Type 1 and No. 7 and 8 (type 7) and No. 9 English origin.
18 patrol boats of the 18 foot type were transferred in 1955, followed by the construction of the two Muroto class coastguard patrol boats (within the ASM - Maritime Safety Agency or MSA).
The JMSDF in 1990
The reboot of Japanese industry giants was quickly followed by a massive rearmament less and less under American supervision and more through a blue water politic. Past the 2000s this move was even more compelling with a more aggressive naval policy, in particular directed against the rapid rise of the PLAN (Chinese Naval Forces). A supplementary proof of this return of strength if needs be was the launch of "helicopter destroyers" of the the Izumo and Hyuga classes. The move started by the AEGIS-capable Kongo class destroyers
Complete list of cold war JMSDF ships (with anchors)
Harukaze class Destroyers
Ayanami class Destroyers
Murasame class Destroyers
Akizuki class Destroyers
Amatukaze missile destroyer
Yamagumo class escort destroyers
Takatsuki class destroyers
Minegumo class escort destroyers
Haruna class helicoper destroyers
Tachikaze class missile destroyers
Shirane class helicopter destroyers
Hatsuyuki class missile destroyers
Hatakaze class missile destroyers
Asigiri class missile destroyers
Kongo class missile destroyers (started 1990)
Murasame class missile destroyers (started 1993)
Akebono/Ikazuchi class frigates
Kusu class frigates
Oyashio class Submarines
Ajisai class Landing Ships
Awaji class Patrol boats
Redburn class Patrol boats
Chifuri class patrol boats
Yahagi class patrol boats
Ukishima class Minesweepers
Yuhibari class Minesweepers
Ukuru class Minesweepers
Yashiro/Atada class Minesweepers
Type 1 class MTBs
Muroto class Coast Guards
JMSDF ships - Early cold war (1947-60)
ARIAKE class DDs
Ariake and Yugure (ex. Heywood L. Edwards and Richard P. Leary) had been launched 6 October 1943 at Boston NyD, towed to Japan in 1959 to be transferred to the new fledgling navy. In 1936 both undergone reconstruction: Improved bridges, larger CiC, new radars, tripod mast. The number 3 5-in gun was discarded for weight saving. On Ariake, number 2 5-in gun was replaced by a weapon Alfa. Both ships were deleted in 1974.
ASAKAZE class DDs:
Both ships were Gleaves class destroyers, launched at Federal, Kearny (USS Ellyson) and Barth Iron Works(USS Malcomb), in 1941 and acquired 19.10.54. They were transferred under MDAP program, as the first Japanese postwar destroyers. New electronics were fitted, and the superfiring 5-in gun was discarded to make place for additional torpedo tubes. Both were returned to the USA in 1969; but then transferred again to Taiwan.
ASHAHI class Frigates:
These were ex-Cannon class (DER) escort destroyers, launched in 1943 at Federal, Newark. Transferred 14.6.1955, under MDAP and returned to the US Navy in 1975.
The first Japanese-built destroyers of the MSDF. Both were laid down at Mitsubishi Zosen, Nagasaki (Harukaze) and Shin Mistubishi HI Kobe (Yukikaze). They were designed and tailored for anti-submarine warfare. The majority of equipment was US-built, following Japan's Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement. Sensor systems was also US standard like the AN/SPS-6 air-search radar, AN/SPS-5 surface-search radar, QHB search sonar, and QDA attack sonar.
They were armed with three 5-in/38 Mark 12 guns on Mark 30 single mounts of US manufacture, controlled by a Mark 51 director. But the JMSDF replaced the director by the Swedish-built modern GFCS developed by Contraves. On the Yukikaze, this was an American Mark 57 director. Other changes included K-guns and depth charge racks halved and later replaced by Mark 32 torpedoes. Two Mark 2 side launchers were also fitted.
Displacement: 1700- 2340 t FL
Dimensions 106 x 10.5 x 3.4 m
Machinery: 2 shafts Mitsubishi/Escher Weiss geared turbines or Westinghouse, 2 combustion engineering boilers or Hitachi/Babcock boilers, 30,000 bhp. 30 knots 6000 nm
Sensors: Radar SPS-5, SPS-6, Sonar SQS-29
Armament: 3x 5in/38, 8x 40 mm AA, 2 Hedgehod, DC rack, K-gun
This second class comprised no less than seven ships, Ayanami, Isonami, Uranami, Shikinami, Takanami, Onami and Makinami. They were laid down between 20.11.1956 and 20.3.1959, launched 1957-1960 and completed 1958-60. Builders were Mitsubishi Zosen Nagasaki, Shin-Mitsubishi on Kobe, Kawasaki from Tokyo, Mitsui Zosen from Tamano, Oshikawajima from Kobe and Ino HI from Maizuru.
They were quite different in their approach compared to the Harukaze, with a smaller artillery, more emphasis in ASW warfare, better electronics and speed. The 3-in guns were American Mk33 models, under Japanese masks. The hull was not flush deck as there was a rear step down. During these times of nuclear fear, Ayanami tested eight wahs-down systems for removing irradiated dust. ECM was also a novelty, as well as air conditioning.
VDS was mounted on three ships, their TT banks removed and replaced by Mk8 "Poor Boy" launcher. Two units at the end of their active life were converted as training ships, without their 21 in TT mount to make room for a deckhouse. Electronics were Japanese-built, although based on US designs. All has been converted as training ships, starting in 1975 up to 1985 and deleted from 1986 to 1990.
Displacement: 1720- 2500 t FL
Dimensions 109 x 10.7 x 3.7 m
Machinery: 2 shafts Mitsubishi/Escher Weiss geared turbines or Westinghouse, 2 Mitsubishi -Nagasaki CE boilers, 35,000 bhp. 32 knots 6000 nm
Sensors: Radars OPS1, 15, Sonar SQS-12/14
Armament: 3x 3in, 1x 4 21in TTs, 2 torpedo racks, 2 hedgehog, 2 y-guns
These three AAW destroyers which came back to a better armed solution, with new 5-in/54 guns in semi-automated Mk.39 turrets that went from the USS Midway, entirely rebuilt. However their poor rate of fire made them unsuitable as AA guns and needed large handling rooms and magazines to operate, so the hull was crowded and living conditions less than ideal.
They were also heavier than previous design, although the hull very much derived from the previous "-Nami" class. Mk 32 TTs made their apparition on two ships, Murasame and Harusame, the latter tested new systems as ASU 7006 in 1984 and latter a depot ship. All three had been built at Nagasaki (Murasame), Tokyo (Yudachi) and Yokosuka (Harusame), auxiliary in 1984 and deleted in 1984-89.
Displacement: 1838- 1840 t FL
Dimensions 110 x 11 x 3.7 m
Machinery: 2 shafts Ishikawajima geared turbines and boilers, 35,000 bhp. 32 knots, 6000 nm
Sensors: Radars OPS1, 15, Sonar SQS-29
Armament: 3x 5/54in, 3x 3in/50 AA, 2 ASW torpedo racks, 1 hedgehog, 2 y-guns, DC rack
Last units of the "old design", the two Akizuki and Teruzuki (Nagasaki and obe, launched june 1959, completed Feb. 1960, were built under the 1954 US Military aid, and carried the same 5-in/54 guns of the Murasame. They were however much larger, with a displacement of 23800/2890 tonnes FL, one more meter in beam and five meters overall lenght.
This was to make room for the particular sub-systems of the main guns. The forecastle hull in particular was lengthened to make room for additional command facilities as they were designed as flotilla leaders. They tested the infamous ASW mortar weapon Alfa, which was a failure.
Their sensors were modernized in 1977-78, and a 375 mm Bofors ASW mortar was adopted. Six 12.75 in Mark 32 ASW TTs were also adopted. VDS was installed and a SQS-23 sonar. They became auxiliaries in 1984-85 and were deleted in 1993.
Displacement: 2380- 2890 t FL
Dimensions 118 x 12 x 4 m
Machinery: 2 shafts Mitsubishi Escher Weiss geared turbines, 4 Mitsubishi CE boilers, 45,000 bhp. 32 knots, 6000 nm
Sensors: Radars OPS-1, 15, Sonar SQS-23, OQA-1 VDS
Armament: 3x 5/54in, 3x 3in/50 AA (2x2), 1 Weapon Alfa, 2 hedgehogs, 2 y-guns, 2x4 21-in TTs, DC rack
Kusu class frigates (1953)
These were eighteen 1943 Frigates of the US Tacoma class, declared surplus and acquired under on loan in 1953. They were named aft trees, like an IJN DD serie. There were basically unchanged but with some exceptions: Keyaki had an additional deckhouse added abat the mainmast to act as flotilla flagship and Kaeded received the same modifications. They were all technically returned in 1962, after the ten year loan, but in reality retransferred to the Japanese government the same day and ecquired definitively. They were decommissioned in the early 1970s (1970-73), however:
Kusu, Nara, Kashi and Momi were deleted in 1972, and Kahi was a moored training ship from 1965. Sugi was decomm. in 1970, Matsu deleted in 1942, as Kaya, Ume, Sakura, Nire and Shii were returned in 1970. Kiri was decomm. in 1970, as Keyaki, buna, Tochi, Tsuge and Kaede HS in 1968.
Asahi class Frigates (1955)
Two Cannon class escort destroyers were transferred on 14.6.1955 under MDAP. Both were the returned to the US in 1975 and scrapped.
Kurushio - Gato class Submarine USS
Contrary to many NATO countries, Japan only operated a single GATO class submarine, the IJ Kurushio. This was the ex-USS Mingo, launched 1942 at Electric boat, transferre dunder MDAP in August 1955. SS 501 was still in her vintage appearance. She was not modernized along the GUPPY program. She basically served as a training boat, waiting for the first postwar Japanese submarine class to be ready: The Oyashio class
(started two years later in 1957).
Organization, personal and structure of the JMSDF
The JMSDF Today
Izumo class carriers "helicopter destroyers"
As of today, what is now currently known as the "Japanese Navy" by simplification could barely stand as "defensive" as its ships numbers and quality tends towards a regional blue water navy. As of particular interest are the latest "helicopter cruisers" like the izumo class (Izumo and Kaga), capable of operating the F-35 and succeeding to the Hyūga class. The main reasons are two folds: The new Abe government's own policy, encouraged by the Pentagon and of course the rapid rise of PLAN and regional ambitions of China.
The JMSDF Yesterday and Now
Today the JMSDF boast a fleet of 154 ships and 346 aircraft manned by 45,800 personnel. Main missions are still to protect Japanese sea lanes and patrol territorial waters, also taking part in UN-led peacekeeping operations and Maritime Interdiction Operations. This naval force is one of the strongest in the world, with some of the largest and most powerful destroyers ever built, including some hybrids like the Hyūga and Izumo class helicopter destroyers and AEGIS-capable Kongo class DDs. Japan started early a policy of building standard destroyers assisted by a couple of helicopter destroyers of various capacities. These modern ships are just aircraft carriers in all but name, a considerable leap forward in blue water capabilities, well beyond a strict defensive framework. Indeed to this day Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution still forbid Japan to built any aircraft carrier.
JDS Kirishima, of the Kongo class AEGIS DDs
Constitution of the JMSDF (1 July 1954)
Between 1945 and 1954, about ten years of American occupation, Japan started with little resources barely sufficient to protect fishing areas. Dissolved by the Potsdam Declaration acceptance, the fleet was reduced to a collection of disarmed ships, some taken away as war reparation (to be blasted in nuclear tests in the American case). Others provided means for the repatriation of Japanese soldiers throughout the whole asia-pacific, plus minesweeping the home waters. This dagerous and tiedous task was given to the supervision of the Second Bureau of the Demobilization Ministry. The minesweers were transferred afterwards to the newly formed Maritime Safety Agency, maintaining resources adnd skills for the navy.
Japan's 1947 Constitution Article 9 in particular stated "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." This was interpreted as to allow only a self-defense force. But under Cold War pressures and forced United States alliance, Japan had to bring its own maritme assets to the local defence rather than relying only on the US Navy.
At last in 1952, the Coastal Safety Force was created, as part of the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency. It included the minesweeping fleet and auxiliary vessels including American transferred destroyers. Two years later, this Force was separated to become the core of the JMSDF, a simple branch of the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF), fixated by a law.
Harukaze, the earliest Japanese cold war destroyer, as preserved.
In 1956, the JMSDF at last commissioned its first domestically produced destroyer, Harukaze. As the Cold War intensified, the JMSDF main task became the anti-submarine role. Both destroyers and frigates developed for the JMSDF were tailored for ASW warfare in priority. By 1970, this navy was sufficient in this frame to nor depend of the US Navy, which kept a permanent task force centered around a nuclear aircraft carrier. With Japan's economy booming, the Navy also gradually benefited from constant increased in budget and by 1991 had achieved by tonnage an historical peak, both in quantity and quality of ships. They were perfectly able to take head on the Soviet Pacific fleet.
Composition of the coldwar JMSDF
Amatsukaze, the earliest modern Japanese missile destroyer, 1963.
This chapter has been already thoroughly examined in the cold war page, but in the space of 40 years, the fleet scrapped her US-built or supplied ships and restarted naval construction with its own industrial giants, like Mitsubishi, already responsible for Japan's tanks and some of her planes. The main doctrine that dominated Japanese cold war thinking was its role of a shield against any infiltration of the Soviet Pacific fleet submarines, in particular SNA and SSBNs.
Early japanese DDs were clearly tailored for ASW warfare, a role that was pushed forward as a condition to benefit from the MDAP program. Japan therefore accessed in the 1950s to the latest in weapons and sensors tech. The strenght of the Japanese cold war navy entiely rested on submarines, that gradually were built in two classes: One helicopter destroyer, generally two ships dedicated to helicopter warfare, and a class of height more versatile destroyers, still helicopter capable but in a standard way. While the Harukaze, Ayanami, Murasame of the 1950s has been retired in 1990, the oldest Japanese DDs still active were the 1959 Akizuki class, of this early design (discarded 1993), and sole Amatsukaze (1963) that introduced a brand new Japanese DD design (discarded 1995). It was followed by the first class of ASW "escort destroyers", the six Yamagumo class (1965-77). Moderately slow with their diesels, they were still capable of 27 knots and heavily armed for ASW warfare. Two became training ships in 1991, one an auxiliary, the others were still in service in the early 2000s.
The late 1960s will saw again a double class of four standard and three escort destroyers, the Takatsuki (1966-69) and Minegumo (1967-69). The first displaced 3100 tons, the second 2100 tons, 32 knots versus 27 knots. The first were heavily armed, but with slightly better antiship capabilities and more powerful electronics. The Minegumo were again ASW destroyers made for long range patrols. All were in service by 1990.
Helicopter Destroyer Hiei
1971 saw the arrival of the first Japanese Helicopter destroyer, Hiei. With on-board electronics being refined, airborne ASW warfare seemed a better solution and authorized the test of two massive destroyers, the largest postwar Japanese ships so far, bearing famous names also (used by former battleships): Hiei and Haruna. At 4700 tons standard, 6300 fully loaded, they were the largest and most powerful DDs in asia, capable of operating three large ASW HSS-2 heavy-duty long range helicopters.
Japanese Mitsubishi HSS-2 ASW and SAR helicopter (Licenced Sikorski S61).
IJ Myoko of the Kongō-class (Kongō, Kirishima, Myōkō, Chōkai) of the 1990s
IJ Atago, of the namesake class (Atago, Ashigara, 2000s)
IJ Maya, of the namesake class (Maya, Haguro, 2010s).