September 22, 2018

Current and future F-35B Operations in and around Japan

Thanks Anonymous for your September 21, 2018 comment which drew me to the Yomiuri Shimbun's Japan News article of December 28, 2018 on: 

[Japanese] "Govt eyes converting Izumo to aircraft carrier"

This includes the artwork below on a modified Izumo's F-35B carrier function:

the Yomiuri Shimbun's The Japan News article continues: 

“...According to multiple government sources, the government aims to begin operation of the aircraft carrier in the early 2020s, and it intends to maintain its interpretation that Japan cannot possess an aircraft carrier with attack capabilities, by using the envisaged aircraft carrier for defense purposes [in line with the wording and spirit of Japan’s peace Constitution], such as using it as a refueling base in defending remote islands.

The government assumes that the new aircraft carrier will carry U.S. forces’ F-35B fighter jets (see below), the sources said. By strengthening Japan-U.S. cooperation, the government aims to prepare for threats posed by North Korea and China.

...If [Izumo] is remodeled into an aircraft carrier, it likely will be able to carry about 10 F-35B fighter jets, according to the sources.

In the remodeling, the deck’s heat resistance will be enhanced so that it can withstand the heat produced by the jet engine of an F-35B fighter jet, the sources said.

[Perhaps Izumo can use UK company D&D Coating’s 1,500 degrees C resistant aluminium and titanium treatment?]

[Remodelling could include installing a “ski-jump” to be studied by Japan’s Defense Ministry in its 2019 budget]

...a senior Defense Ministry official said, “If [modified Izumo] is used for defense purposes, it will not fall under the category of an aircraft carrier with attack capabilities.”...”


US F-35Bs have been operated within Marine Fighter Attack "Green Knights" Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), at the US Marine Corps Iwakuni airbase (in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Japan’s home island of Honshu) since January 2017. See a photo of a VMFA-121 F-35B at this official Marine Corps website.

F-35Bs takeoff conventionally from Iwakuni air base, Japan, on September 18, 2017.

Separately F-35Bs land on USS Wasp (LHD-1) on March 5, 2018.


September 21, 2018

Japan retrofitting its Izumo carriers to take F-35Bs increasingly likely

Above is a very informative May 7, 2018 Youtube on the possibility of basing F-35Bs on Japan's Izumo class "helicopter destroyers".

Anonymous’s comment of September 21, 2018 drew my intention to ongoing Japanese Government consideration of retrofitting Japan’s two Izumo class helicopter destroyers to each operate several STOVL or rolling F-35Bs. Retrofitting may involve ski-jump bows, extra heat treatment of the flight decks to absorb vertical jet engine heat and perhaps angled decks to protect parked aircraft against short distance roll-landing F-35B impacts.

Such retrofitting would add extra weight to the Izumos. Also these modified Izumos may serve as prototypes for even larger 30-40,000 tonne Japanese carrier “destroyers”. Larger carriers may be logical even if the F-35B “flights” (only about 6 airfcraft) are not added. Larger carriers can take increased numbers of helicopters, vertical takeoff V-22 Ospreys (that Japan is buying) and more Japanese troops to be air lifted.

Any new larger class of Japanese carrier “destroyer” would be capable of carrying a wing of 20+
F-35Bs that would be much more effective for round the clock combat air patrols, “buddy refueling" by some F-35Bs and for numbers suffient for in depth airstrikes.

Japanese decision-making on this issue would owe much to ongoing international developments including:

-  China's 2017 launching of its Type 001A ski-jump carrier
-  China’s expected 2020 launch of a Type 002  CATOBAR carrier
-  North Korea’s land and sea based nuclear capabilities
-  Future full time operation of F-35Bs on friendly naval carriers including US Wasp class 
-  Possible future use of friendly F-35Bs on Australia’s two ski-jump Canberra class LHDs and 
   South Korea's Dokdo class LPHs.


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).


September 19, 2018

South Korea's nuclear ambiguity for its submarine missiles, until?

South Korea's intentionally ambiguous mixture of usually conventional Hyunmoo cruise missiles and usually nuclear Hyunmoo ballistic missiles. (See greatly expanded image by clicking Missile Threat (the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Missile Defense).

Pete has added additional information in bolded or in square brackets [...] to the article below that "Unknown" identified on September 18, 2018. The article is from THE KOREA TIMES, apparently dated "2011-05-02") and written by Jung Sung-ki / aka Jeff Jeong? (who is now a Seoul correspondent for Defense News)

[Exclusive] Vertical launching system for attack subs developed

Korea has developed a vertical launching system (VLS) [known as K-VLS or KVLS with, eventually, 10 cells for SLBMs] to be installed on 3,000-ton heavy attack submarines [KSS-IIIs] to be deployed after 2018, according to a shipbuilding industry source, Monday. 

Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are subcontractors for the heavy attack submarines. 

It is the first time that the development of a submarine VLS in Korea has been confirmed. The Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has already developed one used aboard the 7,600-ton [KD-III Sejong the Great class Aegis destroyers]. 

A VLS is a modern type of missile-firing system used aboard submarines and surface vessels of several navies around the world. When installed on an attack submarine, a VLS allows a greater number and variety of weapons to be deployed in comparison to using only torpedo tubes.

Following the development of the VLS for subs, top shipbuilders in Korea and the ADD are also on track to develop an indigenous horizontal tube to launch torpedoes, cruise missiles and mines, the source said. 

"The development of a vertical launching system has already been completed, while the development of a horizontal launching system is still under way," the source told The Korea Times, asking not to be identified. "Developing the horizontal launching tube requires more sophisticated technology than the VLS development." 

The VLS would be used in launching long-range cruise missiles at key targets in North Korea.

The ADD has developed the 500-kilometer-range, ship-launched Cheonryong, which is a modified variant of the surface-to-surface Hyunmoo III-A ballistic missile [or Hyunmoo-3A (Tomahawk like) cruise missile?]. The missile range could be extended up to 1,000 kilometers, according to military sources. 

The Cheonryong missiles are believed to have already been modified to be [horizontally launched from torpedo tubes on South Korea's] Type-214 subs.

South Korea has successfully developed the Hyunmoo III-C surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers, following the deployment of the 1,000-kilometer-range Hyunmoo III-B. 

With the VLS development, Korea would have an advantage in selling its submarines overseas in the future, the source added. 

Currently, the South operates nine 1,200-ton, Type-209 submarines and three 1,800-ton, Type-214 submarines. They are all diesel- and electric-powered and were all built with technical cooperation from HDW of Germany. 

As Germany restricts the transfer of key submarine technology, such as launching tubes, Korea would have difficulty exporting any of those locally-built submarines.

The Navy plans to deploy at least three more Type-214 submarines in the years to come. 

Beginning in 2018, Seoul plans to build 3,000-ton KSS-III submarines fitted with domestically-built submarine combat systems aimed at automating target detection, tracking, threat assessment and weapons control. 

The heavy attack sub will be armed with indigenous ship-to-ground cruise missiles and be capable of underwater operations for up to 50 days with an upgraded Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. 


So South Korea seems to retain confusing ambiguity on whether its new submarine missiles will be:

-  usually conventional explosive cruise missiles (SLCMs) that are usually low flying,
    subsonic or mildly supersonic (if conventional adhering to the NPT)


-  usually nuclear explosive ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that are almost always high flying
   and hypersonic (if nuclear breaking the NPT in the same way North Korea already
   breaks the NPT).

Note that a submarine firing merely conventional explosive cruise or ballistic missiles would represent a very expensive launch method for little explosive effect. Also submarine launched cruise or ballistic missiles from a nuclear capable country (like South Korea) might be seen as nuclear armed by nuclear armed countries - usually demanding a nuclear response. 

If Israel's Dolphin submarines fired their cover-name "Popeye Turbo" missiles at Iran then Iran would consider these missiles to be nuclear until proven otherwise.

There is also a myth that ballistic missiles might carry other special warheads (by they biological, chemical or radiological payloads). Over the years critical military installations (eg. deep dug command or "Kim" VIP centers or hardened long range missile silos) have developed air conditioning or separate oxygen defenses that are only vulnerable to the blast penetration of nuclear weapons. So it is likely that South Korea's mature and final submarines ballistic missiles (in the late 2020s/or 2030s?) will be nuclear armed.  


September 18, 2018

Research Student accused conspiring to export to Iran US radar technology

From Australia's Government owned ABC News comes a Queensland, Australia article about a research student facing charges of allegedly conspiring to export special amplifiers classified as "defence articles" under the US Government munitions list. In what way might such "amplifiers" be "radar equipment" capable of "detecting stealth planes or missiles"?

"UQ research student accused of sending US radar equipment to Iran" By Kristian Silva *
Updated [September 14, 2018] at 4:45pm
"A University of Queensland (UQ) research student is fighting to avoid extradition to the United States, after American authorities accused him of exporting military radar equipment to help the Iranian Government.
Reza Dehbashi Kivi, 38, has never set foot in the US but is accused of exporting American equipment for detecting stealth planes or missiles to Iran.
Mr Dehbashi could face a maximum 20 years' prison for the alleged offences, which date back to 2008 when he was living in Iran, the country of his birth.
His barrister Daniel Caruana told the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday his client was on an "extraordinary scholarship" at UQ to study his PhD, where he was working on developing a machine to detect skin cancers.
The Redbank Plains [a suburb 30km southwest of Brisbane CBD] man was arrested on Thursday and taken into custody, with American officials seeking to have him extradited to the US to face six charges.
According to court documents, Mr Dehbashi is facing charges of conspiring to export special amplifiers classified as "defence articles" under the US munitions list.
The US Government has alleged the amplifiers were bought from American companies.
Another charge accuses him of "aiding and abetting in the exportation of defence articles from the United States to Iran".

Magistrate cites treaty obligations in refusing bail
Mr Dehbashi lost an application to be released on bail before a contested hearing on October 25 to decide on the extradition.
Mr Caruana told the court Mr Dehbashi's scholarship, lack of criminal history, and ties to the community were some of the reasons he should be released on bail.
But Magistrate Barbara Tynan rejected the application, saying the threshold for allowing bail was higher for extradition cases than for domestic cases.

"There is nothing extraordinary, in my view, that he is a scholarship holder and undertaking high-level studies regardless of the fact that those studies may be of benefit to the community," she said.

"Australia has a very substantial interest in surrendering a person in accordance with its treaty obligations.
"In an era where much crime is transnational, the breakdown in international cooperation would be disastrous.
"If other countries think it not worthwhile to seek extradition from Australia, Australia may become a haven, for a time, for people who have committed serious crimes in other countries.""
* Kristian Silva is a digital producer and journalist based in Brisbane. Prior to joining the ABC in 2015, he was a reporter with Fairfax Media in Brisbane and Melbourne. You can follow him on Twitter: @kristian_silva .