Naval Air: March 20, 2001


Japan has "explained" the unusual design of its new helicopter-carrying "destroyer". This strange ship has a flight deck forward, another one aft, all of the weapons and sensors on the starboard (right) side, and a large hangar for MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters amidships to port (left) of the main superstructure. The Japanese said that the MH-53E is too large to use the flight deck elevators and has to be stored in a hangar on the same level as the flight decks. Critics had questioned if the design was intended to sneak an aircraft carrier (prohibited by the Japanese constitution) into the Maritime Self Defense Force. Critics point out that it would still be possible for the ships to be converted into true (if very small) aircraft carriers by removing the amidships hangar to clear the flight deck. While this might take months it would take far less time than building an aircraft carrier from scratch. To make this rather bizarre scenario workable, the Japanese would need special short-take-off aircraft.--Stephen V Cole


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