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Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces to Purchase Transport Ships.

| 2018

By Ben Rimland
The Sankei Shimbun reports that Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) are currently examining a plan that would see the service purchase transport ships independent of the Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) for the purpose of transporting men and materiel to the nation’s southwestern islands in an emergency.

Japan Ground Self Defense Forces to Purchase Transport Ships 1 A French Navy EDA-R Landing Catamaran (CNIM's LCAT) about to enter the well deck of the JMSDF Osumi LST during a combined exercise in 2015. Picture: French Navy

The plan, reported to be included in the upcoming revision of Japan’s National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), would also see the vessels prepositioning materiel to support the JGSDF response to emergency and “gray zone” scenarios. Voices within the defense ministry support equipping the JGSDF with landing ship tanks and smaller, more maneuverable ships to aid flexibility.

The defense ministry currently maintains contracts with two private ferries to aid disaster response and island defense efforts. However, JGSDF commanders and MOD officials have evaluated the current arrangement as unsatisfactory, and have expressed a preference to move towards developing a JGSDF-specific solution. Because the JGSDF has little experience with operating LSTs or other transport vessels, the plan calls for utilizing the expertise of retired JMSDF commanders to help set up the unit within the JGSDF. The JGSDF presently operates a number of transport helicopters and aircraft -- the CH-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey -- but airborne transportation alone is insufficient for transporting the JGSDF’s rapidly growing presence in the southwestern islands, including hundreds of soldiers, a radar station, and soon-to-be-installed anti-ship missile units in Okinawa prefecture. The activation of the JGSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment brigade has made this need even more pressing.

At present, the JMSDF operates three LSTs of the Osumi class, each vessel displacing 14,000 tons and featuring a well deck for amphibious operations. The JMSDF also fields a number of utility landing craft equipped with bow doors.

Ben Rimland is an independent researcher on Asia-Pacific security issues. His academic research pertains to Japanese defense policy and American security policy in Asia. He can be found on twitter at @JPNsecuritywonk.

Japan Ground Self Defense Forces to Purchase Transport Ships 2JGSDF Type 88 coastal defense system driving off a JMSDF LCAC during a recent amphibious exercise. Picture by our Japanese ship spotter colleague (and twitter user) きりしま @phantom2navy


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