September 20, 2018

Japan conducted South China Sea Exercises for last 15 years, North K?

Thanks Anonymous for the Comment today drawing my attention to footnote [3]
Tom O’Connor’s September 17, 2018 Newsweek article "China And North Korea Warn Japan As It Conducts Historic Military Drills" including:

"China and North Korea have warned their mutual rival Japan against disrupting regional stability as it conducted two historic military exercises seen as provocative by the two countries.

The Japanese Defense Ministry confirmed Monday that its Oyashio-class attack submarine [“Japanese navy ship” JS] Kuroshio participated alongside Izumo-class helicopter carrier Kaga, Murasame-class destroyer Inazuma and Akizuki-class destroyer Suzutsuki, as well as five aircraft, Thursday in the country's debut drills in the South China Sea, much of which China claims as its own territory. The release did not offer further details about the training, but Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun cited defense officials as saying the moves were aimed at China and took place within the nine-dash line, which is considered by Beijing to be the extent of its sovereign maritime borders."


1.  JS Kuroshio is not the first Japanese submarine to openly conduct a (message to China) Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) (exercise) in the South China Sea. Japanese submarine JS Oyashio (SS-511) earlier exercised in April 2016 by visiting Subic Bay in the Philippines. JS Oyashio was accompanied on this FONOP to Subic Bay by Japanese destroyers JS Setogiri (DD-156) and JS Ariake (DD-109) in defiance of China.

Later in April 2016 Japanese destroyers JS Setogiri and JS Ariake then sailed right across the South China Sea to the Vietnamese naval base at Cam Ranh Bay (see Map A below). See Submarine Matters article “Japan's First Ship-Sub FONOP in South China Sea starts April 3 - 6,  2016” at

The following year (in May 2017) Japanese helicopter carrier "destroyer" JS Izumo conducted another FONOP in the South China Sea.

"Punter" has also provided a September 18, 2018 link in Comments indicating: "But, contrary to earlier media reports, the [Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera] noted that the [Japanese Navy] MSDF had conducted submarine exercises in [Southeast Asian waters] for more than 15 years, echoing remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [on September 17, 2018]. Onodera said the government had “adequately publicized” these drills numerous times, but it was unclear when this had occurred." 

2.  It is odd that North Korea (NK) has now become involved in opposing FONOPs in the South China Sea. That sea is far away from NK and NK  claims no territory there.

Possibly when NK leader Kim Jong-on met Trump in Singapore (June 2018) Kim's limited consciousness expanded from NK's immediate regional matters to Southeat Asian matters. Also China might have encouraged NK (the recipient of much Chinese aid and trade) to present a united front against Japanese FONOPs.

Map A - Note Subic Bay is on Luzon, the large northern island of the Philippines.

Map B - China has, by itself, decided to claim most of the South China Sea within its artificial,
so-called,  "Nine dash line" (Map courtesy GeoGarage).



PUNTER said...

Itsunori Onodera, Japanese defense minister " noted that the MSDF had conducted submarine exercises in the area for more than 15 years".

another interesting thing is that even old Oyashio-class sub can do job in SCS, very far from Japan's submarine base.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

As other efforts to restrain China, Japan glants parts or second-handed airplane toVietnam, Malaysia and Philippine.

In October 2017, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) launched a promotion team to glant retired JMSDF P-3C to Malaysia which wants to improve warning and surveillance capabilities in the South China Sea. P-3C whose sonobuoy is detached is transferred to Malaysia in 2018 [1].

Japan has entered an adjustment to glant the helicopter (UH-1) parts of JMSDF and used aircraft (TC-90) to the Philippine troops free of charge during the current fiscal year (FY2017) [2].

Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are consulting the donation of P - 3C. According to several stakeholders, Japan is making adjustment for graning [2, 3].

MoD converts Izumo-class destroyer to aircraft carrier to operate F385B [4, 5]. Equipment of angled flight deck, improvement of heat resitance of deck and contrloll sytsem will be considered.

[3] ATLA have signed the contract ” Service work for investigation on the transfer of P - 3C” (45,964,800Yen) with KHI in Jan/2018.
[5] JMSDF classfys warships into submarine and destroyers. As Japan holds an exclusively defensive security policy, “aircraft carrier” sounds to be offensive.


Pete said...

Thanks Punter

I have altered the article with the new information you've provided.



Pete said...

Hi Anonymous [at 21/9/18 3:50 AM]

Thanks for your comments and links.

Japan granting or donating used P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to Malaysia and maybe to Vietnam and the Philippines is very interesting.

Also conversion of Izumo-class helicopter destroyers to aircraft carriers able to operate F-35Bs could represent major strategic and political moves by Japan. Australia has also informally considered permanently basing F-35Bs on its Canberra class LHDs.

I'll write about the Izumos later today.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

Not related to your articel, but another US naval blog discussed surface tiles falling off US subs today, and just letting you know.



Pete said...

Thanks Adrian

I don't know whether SORYU or KILO submarines suffer the same loss of anechoic coating/tile problems?



Josh said...

Tile loss has always been an issue. With the Virginia class submarines, it specifically came down the practice of not tiling the boats before they went through their shakedown. This practice was adopted so that sonar ranges could accurately detect any flaws leading to unnecessary self generated noise, but the result was Virginia class shedding its coating excessively. When the coating was applied before being put in water, the result were much better. I believe this practice was adopted after about a half dozen boats.


Pete said...

Thanks Josh

For your knowledge of the history and the physics. I understand the UK Trafalgar-class SSNs may have suffered/suffer the same tile shedding shedding problems.

Sounds similar to baking on paint to cars - baking being better than applying paint under cold, wet conditions.



PUNTER said...

James Holmes recommends Soryu-class subs for US Navy.

Pete said...

Hi PUNTER [at 25/9/18 3:52 AM]

Thanks for that.

US commentators (USNI etc) broach the idea of the US Navy bringing back conventional subs quite often.

But the lack of capability (including speed and under-ice longevity) of conventional vs SSNs is always a problem.

Also commentators often forget conventional sub crew training is as expensive as for SSNs. Also the training, spares, and support are very dissimilar between conventional and SSNs. So not even France and UK have retained conventional subs in their "small" navies.