Ever since the end of the Second World War, Japan has stayed away from acquiring new aircraft carriers out of a belief that such an action would be seen as “offensive,” thereby violating the pacifist nature of its constitution. However, China’s aggressive military expansionist policies in the Pacific Ocean have forced Japan to reverse the decision. The island nation will soon acquire aircraft carriers with a view to strengthening defenses.
Japan’s new flattops
Japan will be updating its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers so that they can eventually carry fighter jets. The aim is to enable the ships to carry F-35B stealth fighters, which are known for being able to land vertically and requiring only a short takeoff. In fact, Japan is reportedly set to buy 100 F-35 jets from the U.S. This is in addition to the 42 F-35s Japan already purchased from the United States.
The move comes after a defense report that Beijing already has built aircraft carriers capable of moving into Japan’s southwestern islands. “Increased Chinese naval activity in waters far from its shores has added to bilateral tensions over the Senkakus, uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are administered by Japan, but claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyu,” according to The Guardian.
In addition to acquiring aircraft carriers, Japan will also seek to increase its overall weapons strength over the next few years. The country is said to be working on developing hypersonic-guided missiles that will evade radar networks and travel five times the speed of sound. Unmanned surveillance submarines and high-speed glide missiles that can travel for a distance of more than 180 miles are also being developed. They are expected to become deployable by around 2020.
China’s aircraft carriers
Meanwhile, China is developing its third aircraft carrier, the second one to be built domestically. According to Chinese media, the new vessel might come equipped with an electromagnetic catapult aircraft launch system that is now a feature on the U.S. Navy’s latest aircraft carriers.
China wants four aircraft carriers ready by 2030. However, Beijing’s trade war with the U.S. seems to have halted the plan’s progress somewhat. “A shipbuilder had been scheduled to build another Type 002 carrier, the country’s fourth, in recent days, but it was postponed… amid the ongoing trade war with the U.S., Beijing doesn’t want to upset Washington further — the economy has already slowed since the two countries started their trade disputes,” a military insider said to South China Morning Post.
Beijing’s increasing military capabilities at sea have security experts worried. As the country acquires power, tensions in the South China Sea will only increase. China’s navy might even beat out America in a few decades.
“The U.S. Navy and the capability for the U.S. Navy will still be superior to the Chinese Navy in 10 years, but the size of the Chinese fleet will be larger and they’ll have closed the gap in technology and training,” Robert Ross, a professor of political science at Boston College, said to CNN.
America currently has 11 aircraft carriers. Chinese military experts theorize that their country would need only about four or five carriers in their navy.