A Japanese shipyard has
launched a new minesweeper for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Tuesday, the Japan Maritime United Corporation (JMUC), a shipyard located in
Tsurumi, Yokohama, launched a new mine countermeasures vessel built for the
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), The Japan Times
690-ton Awaji is the lead vessel of a new class of mine countermeasure
vessels slated to replace three wooden-hulled 1,000-ton Yaeyama-class
minesweepers that have been in service since March 1993.
named after an island in Hyogo Prefecture, boasts a new special hull made out
of composite fiber-reinforced plastic in order not to set off mines with its
built-in metal detecting sensors during minesweeping operations.
boasts a length of 67 meters, a beam of 11 meters, and a draught of 5.2 meters
IHS Jane’s Navy International
reports. The top speed of the Awaji, powered by two diesel engines, is
14 knots according to representatives of the Japan Maritime United Corporation.
The primary weapon of the JMSDF’s new vessel’s will be a 20
the JMSDF’s current minesweeping fleet consists of 21 ships–one of the largest
in the world–and has gained international renown for its expertise in “sea
clearance” (the Japanese euphemism for minesweeping operations), primarily
based on past missions. Japan deployed five minesweepers to the Persian Gulf in
1991 to remove 1,200 sea mines laid by the Iraqi military in the waters off
Kuwait. During the opening stages of the Korean War (1950 to 1951),
Japanese minesweepers helped clear landing areas from mines for American troops
and also were engaged in operations further away from the shores of the Korean
Peninsula in the Sea of Japan.
minesweeping operations were the subject of discussion during debates over two
contentious security bills–based on a July 2014 Cabinet resolution
reinterpreting article 9 of Japan’s pacifist Constitution–which passed the
Upper House of the Japanese Diet in September 2015.
the debates, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly invoked a
hypothetical blockade of the Strait of Hormuz with undersea mines, which would
necessitate the deployment of the JMSDF minesweeping fleet. In July, the
Japanese Prime Minister also said that he
could envision JMSDF minesweeping operations in the South China Sea “if the
situation meets the three conditions [on the use of force under collective
self-defense].” However, in September, a few days prior to the passing of
the security bills, Abe tried to tone down his rhetoric on the subject saying that, given
“the current international circumstances, we are not expecting that
(minesweeping) will become a real issue,” although he emphasized that the JMSDF
should regardless of the current political situation be ready for such an
eventuality in the future.
launching ceremony was attended by Vice Defense Minister Tetsuro Kuroe, JMSDF
officers, Defense ministry officials and shipyard workers. “Awaji is
scheduled to be commissioned in March 2017,” according to a Japanese Ministry
of Defense official quoted by IHS Jane’s Navy International.
It remains unclear when the other vessels of the new class of JSMSDF
minesweeping ships will enter service. By Franz-Stefan Gady for The Diplomat