Japan is an island country surrounded by water. This means that the threat to Japan always comes from the sea. Japan also relies heavily on other countries for the supply of natural resources that are indispensable to national existence. Over 90 percent of imports are transported through sea routes. Taking into account the factors of geographical and economic features, the main mission of Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is to defend the island country from a maritime invasion and to secure the safety of maritime traffic around Japan.
In order to defend Japan from the maritime invasion and to secure the safety of maritime traffic around Japan, the JMSDF conducts various kinds of operations. Operations include: patrol, escort, and defense of key ports and straits, with its 130 ships and 200 aircraft. The self-defense Fleet takes charge of overall maritime operations around Japan, and each Regional District force conducts maritime operations and logistic support, in each assigned area in close cooperation with the self-defense Fleet. Amphibious assault, missile attack by submarines or aircraft, laying mines and attack by surface ships can be considered a direct attack against Japan and the interference of its maritime traffic, the JMSDF executes Anti Submarine, Anti Air, Anti Surface, Mine Laying and other operations depending on the threat.
A series of operations that range from searching to sinking submarines is called Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW). The modern submarines’ improved capabilities in performances, quietness, offensiveness, as well as detecting nuclear submarines, which are semi-permanently submergible, bring further threat to the security of maritime traffic to Japan. To cope with these circumstances, the JMSDF has steadily focused on modernizing its weaponry and improving the skills of crew involved in ASW, engaging in its mission with full morale.
The object of Anti Air Warfare (AAW) is defending surface groups and ships against an attack from the air. Flight performances and offensive capability of aircraft have remarkably improved in recent years, and most of the surface ships and submarines of the Japanese defense force mount Anti Surface missiles. In today’s world, a threat from the air against surface ships has become extremely dangerous and complicated.
Accordingly, in terms of AAW, it is necessary to form the multi-layered air defense system composed of the guns and missiles as well as to avoid missile attack through electronic counter measures. To improve these AAW capabilities, the JMSDF has embarked on introduction of the new Aegis (guided missile frigates) type escort ships since 1988.
Recently, surface ships have tended to mount long range SSMs (Surface to Surface Missile), and ship’s tacticsare shifting from exchanging fire by guns to launching SSMs from a distance. Offensive capabilities against the surface forces are vital to attack hostile ships that intend to assault Japan, to defend our vessels from the attack of enemy ships mounting SSM, and to secure the safety of maritime traffic around Japan.
Mine Warfare is divided into Mine Countermeasure Operation; which aims at removing mines laid by enemies, and Mining Operation; which aims at laying mines to protect Japan from an enemy’s landing invasion and coastal defense. The JMSDF’s capability of Mine Countermeasure Operation is highly ranked among the leading countries as a result of its actual disposing mines at the end of the Pacific War, and still more making efforts to improve its capability coping with the highly advanced mines. The Overseas Minesweeper Force, dispatched to the Persian Gulf in 1991, achieved brilliant success under the harsh natural environment, and was highly evaluated at home and abroad. In order to deter landing inroad and passing through the channel by enemy forces, the mining operation is also conducted on the occasion of making minefields on the shore or key channel where enemy landing invasions will be expected.
The JMSDF has removed numerous mines laid in Japanese waters and ports during the World War II and is still engaged in minesweeping operations which are active to this very day.
Electronic Warfare is defined as operations to detect and make reverse use of the enemy’s magnetic waves while detecting the enemy and securing Japan’s effective use of magnetic waves for itself. In Electronic Warfare, there are three measures. First is electronic support measure (ESM), which are ships equipped with the ability of electronic detection and missile alarm systems. The second measure is that of electronic counter measure (ECM), which are ships equipped with electronic jamming and chaff rocket launcher systems. The third measure is electronic counter-counter measure (ECCM), which are surface ships equipped with various radar equipment capable of avoiding the enemy’s own electronic countermeasure.
For Japan, based on its exclusively defense-oriented policy, it is extremely important to carry out constant surveillance over Japanese territory and its surrounding airspace and waters. The JMSDF carries out constant warning and surveillance operations over vessels moving in the waters surrounding Japan, through patrol aircraft and vessels, and engages in collecting information on movements and the types of equipment carried by foreign vessels.
In case of emergency, transporting the SDF personnel, equipment, and materials to the shore in the operational area and outlying islands is one of the most important missions of the JMSDF. The JMSDF Landing Ships broadly contribute to the stability of the national life through rescuing refugees resided in outlying islands and ferrying goods to the site on the occasion of a disaster. Landing ships were dispatched to Cambodia to support the Engineer Battalion of Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations.
In case of emergency, it is important to search and rescue the crew of aircraft or submarines in distress from the viewpoint of respecting for their lives and maintaining their morale. The JMSDF possesses a rescue amphibian ship, US-1A, for the maritime rescue operations, rescue helos for the aerial rescue in the vicinity of the air base and submarine rescue vessel for rescuing submarines.
In order to complete the JMSDF’s mission through handling modern equipment, superb knowledge and skills on the basis of strong physical strength and strong teamwork on the basis of mutual trust are necessary. The JMSDF’s educational system aims at acquiring knowledge and skills willingly, training mind and body, and mastering seamanship. Additionally it shoulders a broad part of responsibility to foster the well-balanced persons to be talented with ranging from basic mental attitude as servicemen and servicewomen of the JMSDF, the ability to operate languages to obtaining various qualifications.
The skills for navigation, flight, and operating weapons to execute its missions are called “Service” in the JMSDF Service education and training are implemented at the 1st to 4th Service Schools. Furthermore, JMSDF training is conducted in the cycle of training periods. A training period, involving rotation of crew, overhaul, and repair of vessels, is divided into a few phases to upgrade operational proficiency stage by stage. The JMSDF conducts an Annual Exercise every autumn with the participation of most of its vessels and aircraft.
Cooperation with U.S. Forces
Under the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements, Japan’s Self Defense Force is to conduct a number of cooperative operations with the U.S. Forces in case of an emergency. The JMSDF usually conducts the Japan-U.S. combined exercise not only to promote closer communication and to keep harmonious relations between the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF, but also to improve the level of tactical skill. In addition, every year, the JMSDF dispatches its escort ships, submarines, and ASW aircraft to the United States to brush up its proficiency through making use of the US Navy’s training installations.
Contribution to Society
The JMSDF dispatches its personnel to relief work in close contact with the authorities concerned to protect human life and individual property when there are natural disasters such as typhoons, torrential rain, earthquakes, rescue of people, ships and aircraft in distress, emergency transportation of patients, and relief supplies. Especially, with respect to rescuing ships and aircraft in distress, a certain number of rescue ships and aircraft are constantly standing by ready to go immediately from the naval and air base. Therefore, the JMSDF can quickly respond to carry out its air transportation of emergency patients from outlying islands, isolated areas, or the ships on the ocean.
The JMSDF has cooperated in Japan’s Antarctic region observation since 1965. Today, the JDS (Japanese Defense Ship) icebreaker SHIRASE has embarked helicopters in service transporting observation personnel, materials and provisions between Japan and Japan’s Showa base in the Antarctic.
The JMSDF has conducted an aerial observation of the ice floes by its aircraft every year since 1957. The observation covers the sea area off the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Straits of Nemuro and the southeastern sea area of Kushiro through P-3C (Reconnaissance aircraft) for five months from the end of December to the middle of May every year. The outcomes of observations are reported speedily to each section involved in meteorological authorities and therefore, it greatly contributes to preventing human life from disaster.
The JMSDF has cooperated in aerial surveys for drawing maps at the request of the Geography Survey Institute of the Ministry of Construction since 1960. The surveyors get on the JMSDF’s aircraft, UC-90 (Reconnaissance aircraft) to make a survey from the aircraft.
The JMSDF conducts a variety of public relations activities to inform the people of the JMSDF’s present status. These activities are aimed at increasing the people’s understanding of and interest in the JMSDF through conducting musical concerts performed by the SDF bands, experience of voyage and flights, and participation in public events.
Japan is a country that is surrounded by the vast expanse of the sea. It is imperative that the JMSDF keeps a sharp eye out on it’s neighbors. Today, Japan is receiving a great deal of attention not only form the United States, who wish goodwill to Japan, but also China, which in the past few years has shot a few missiles very close to Japan’s coast. The U.S. Navy quickly responded to China’s threats. However, questions were raised. Will the world’s next hot spot be in Japan due to an act of Chinese aggression? Maybe. Know this, because of the high proficiency of the JMSDF, the threat to Japan, and her territories, is significantly reduced.