Tokyo, Dec. 24 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Defense Ministry is considering the idea of utilizing airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, aircraft for surveillance in case cutting-edge F-35B stealth fighters are operated on the Izumo destroyer after the vessel is revamped to serve as a de facto aircraft carrier, Jiji Press has learned.
Specifically, AWACS aircraft of the Air Self-Defense Force will fly from a ground base to conduct a surveillance mission in operational areas of the U.S.-made fighter jets carried by the revamped Izumo of the Maritime SDF, government sources said.
Japan cannot possess an attack aircraft carrier, due to the country’s exclusively defense-oriented policy. Carrying AWACS aircraft is one of conditions for an attack aircraft carrier, according to the government.
While the Izumo would remain unable to carry AWACS aircraft after the planned revamp, the functions of planes based on the vessel can be supported with the use of AWACS aircraft deployed at the ASDF’s Hamamatsu base in the central prefecture of Shizuoka, the sources said.
U.S. aircraft carriers have AWACS planes to detect enemy aircraft in operational airspace for air strikes and other missions. AWACSaircraft installation on the Izumo is impossible as its flight deck is short.
The Defense Ministry believes that the use of AWACS aircraft, which have a range of about 9,000 kilometers, would be helpful when operating Izumo-based F-35B fighters in areas around remote islands in the Pacific, where the radar and other air defense systems are insufficient, according to the government sources. F-35Bs are capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.
AWACS aircraft are able to detect not only oncoming enemy planes but also targets beyond the horizon that the radar on a surface ship cannot recognize, and also have the command and control functions for fighter jets.
In its new defense guidelines, released last week, the government showed its plan to operate the Izumo as a de facto aircraft carrier through the revamp.
The new guidelines noted that the Chinese military has been advancing to Pacific areas very frequently in recent years, and is diversifying the routes and troop formations for such activities.
After the overhaul, the Izumo carrying F-35Bs is expected to be operated in areas around the Nansei chain of southwestern remote islands and areas between the islands of Iwojima, formally Iwoto, and Minamitorishima in the Pacific Ocean.
The Chinese military is expanding its activities in and over areas extending to the so-called second island chain, stretching from Japan’s Ogasawara chain of islands to Guam, beyond the first island chain, from the Nansei islands to the Philippines.