Japan’s New Destroyers Are Intentional Missile-Magnets

‘Suzutsuki,’ ‘Fuyuzuki’ and their sisters are meant to deflect enemy attacks away from other ships

On March 12 and 13, the Japanese navy will receive the new Akizuki-class destroyers Suzutsuki and Fuyuzuki. The 6,800-ton warships bristle with weaponry—and for a reason.

The two new destroyers are meant to draw enemy fire away from the larger Kongo-class vessels, Tokyo’s most sophisticated naval combatants. If they’re going to have any chance of surviving, the Akizukis need to be able to fight.

Contrast them with America’s latest Littoral Combat Ships, which are so lightly armed that even U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has expressed his concern.

The two Akizukis complete the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s 2007 order for four vessels of the class. The two other Akizukis are already in service. Each vessel cost around $1 billion.

Suzutsuki and Fuyuzuki will replace the two Shirane-class ships, maintaining Tokyo’s force of 26 destroyers, the second-largest in the world after America’s fleet of more than 60 Arleigh Burke-class ships.

Akizuki. MSDF photo

The Akizukis are tough, fast and sleek. They’re Japan’s heaviest destroyers after the Kongos … and they can match the 30-knot top speed of their lighter cousins of the Murasame class.

The new destroyers each carry a 127-millimeter gun, two Type 90 quadruple surface-to-surface missile launchers, a 32-cell Mk. 41 vertical-launch system for surface-to-air and anti-submarine missiles plus two HOS-303 triple torpedo tubes. They each have two Phalanx 1B automated defense guns and a large flight deck for an SH-60K anti-submarine helicopter.

The Akizukis have the fourth-generation Advanced Technology Combat System with the FCS-3A fire-control radar, which has an output three times more powerful than the predecessor sensor. Their standard complement is 200 sailors per ship.

Suzutsuki under construction in Nagasaki in October 2012. Norio Nakayama photo

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagasaki Shipyard built Suzutsuki. Dutchman Hendrik Hardes founded the Nagasaki facility in 1857, and the yard produced the famous World War II battleships Musashi and Kirishima.

Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding’s Tamano Shipyard in Okayama prefecture made Fuyuzuki. She was the yard’s first destroyer in 17 years. The company recently built Japan’s Osumi-class landing ships.

Japan has already announced a plan for new 5,000-ton destroyers to follow the Akizukis. These 25DD-type vessels will be primarily submarine-hunters.

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