In its 2020 Defence White Paper, the government of Japan has confirmed that the F-35B will operate from the Izumo-class helicopter destroyer.

The white paper ‘Defence of Japan 2020‘ says that this is in response to the new security environment and to “protect Japan’s air and sea approaches”.

The section states “Partial refurbishment of Destroyer JS “Izumo” for takeoff and landing by F-35B”. The 248-metre long Izumo, Japan’s largest warship equipped with a flat flight deck, was designed with an eye to hosting F-35B fighters. For example, the elevator connecting the deck with the hangar can carry the aircraft.

While this has been known to be the intention for some time, this makes it official.

Japan previously announced plans to convert JS Izumo and her sister Kaga, of the Izumo ‘helicopter destroyer’ class, into light aircraft carriers capable of operating F-35B jets.

The country also recently increased its order of F-35s, including 42 F-35Bs, making the country the second largest operator behind the United States, a spot previously held by the United Kingdom.

Image result for japanese aircraft carriers 2016

The earlier National Defense Program Guidelines, which set out the aims and capability targets over a period of about 10 years for Japanese forces, stated that the government will “enable fighter jets to be operated from existing warships, if necessary, to improve the flexibility of their operation”. This has now been made official.

It was also reported recently that JS Izumo is to be redesignated as a multi-purpose escort destroyer to comply with Japan’s pacifist constitution that limits JSDF capabilities to self-defense.

“The Izumo was originally designed as a multipurpose escort ship, so it wouldn’t pose any threat to other countries if fighter jets are deployed on it,” Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya was quoted as saying by The Japan Times on December the 11th.

According to the outlet Asahi, US jets would likely be the first to use the Izumo for landings and take-offs.:

“The government has also approved a plan to purchase U.S.-made F-35B fighter jets which have short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. The F-35B jets will be mainly used on the Izumo and Kaga, but the aircraft will not be deployed until after fiscal 2024. That leaves open the possibility of at least a three-year period when the Izumo would be capable of being used as an aircraft carrier, but with the Air SDF having no such aircraft in its arsenal.

Izumo beside other F-35B capable vessels (fan made).

According to several government sources, when Gen. Robert Neller, who was then commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, visited Japan in March, Defense Ministry officials briefed him on the plans to retrofit the Izumo and said U.S. military F-35B jets would likely be the first to use the Izumo after it became a flattop. They asked for U.S. cooperation and advice in the operation of the F-35B jets. The U.S. jets would likely use the Izumo during joint training exercises with the SDF as well as when U.S. jets faced an emergency situation requiring immediate landing.”

Minister Iwaya also reiterated that the warship would not be an “attack aircraft carrier” capable of offensive military operations, although it’s hard to see how that distinction can be made.

As we reported recently, before this news, conversion of the existing Izumo class helicopter carriers was rumoured as an option for the F-35Bs Japan wants to purchase.

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Wonder if this is true, wouldn’t it be easier to just build new? Which is what I’m sure is going to happen but after this partial mod (the rest will be done in a few years – ski ramp?) It should be enough to operate USMC F35’s.



Far to small. Just look at the proposed path of the right most catapult. Goes straight in to parking areas for aircraft. The design would allow no space for aircraft storage above deck.


About two years ago Tamiya released a model of the Izumo. The model came with F35Bs and has a ski ramp. Clearly Tamiya got the idea to produce the model from somewhere. There have also been a number of models out just recently, of a conventional carrier, complete with catapults and an angled deck that also comes with F35s, Hawkeyes and V22s. The Japanese defence minister has also said that the USMC will be the first to operate from their carrier, probably so their Navy can get trained up quickly on how to manage the flight ops etc. I expect… Read more »


Won’t happen as they’re buying F35B’s. They’d have to cancel the order and replace it with one for F35C’s. Every western Navy that wants fixed-wing capability, aside from the dollar-rich USN, is going the route of the F35B which can be hosted on smaller, cheaper carriers – or converted helicopter carriers. What will be interesting to see is how many chose the USMC route or the RN route of ski-jump and rolling-landings. The RN has the opportunity to influence the operating procedures of a many allied nations with these 2 unique procedures. It may also mean we see Italian and… Read more »

Rob N

It would be great to see Japanese and Italian F35B’s on QE. It would be good to see a Ski Jump on the Japanese’s ship. I am not sure if tge can build carriers under their constitution. However they have to get round this by calling them destroyers.

David Flandry

They can build aircraft carriers. They just need to call them something else, like aviation support ships, etc. They will have small carriers in 4 or 5 years anyway. The US should announce it has no objection to aircraft carriers.


One of Japanese biggest fears is the Chinese invading their islands to the south. If they did this these carrier could provide a level of air defense to the fleet sent to re take them. These new carriers our pretty much the modern equivalent of the ww2 era escort carriers.


This is a good move by Japan, however it is my opinion that a ski jump should be fitted. I noticed that the Italians with their new Trieste could in the baby carrier role carry 16 F35Bs plus some helicopters. Possibly the Japanese could also carry 16-20 F35Bs, with 4-6 Ospreys and 3-4 CrowsNest in the baby carrier fit. In the escort carrier role it could have 12 F35Bs, 8 ASW helicopters, 4 Osprey’s and 3 Crowsnest. That would be a good escort carrier for a surface action group and convoy escort. Yes I still believe that a convoy escort… Read more »


With other nations going the F35B route like the RN hopefully we might see the opportunity for equipment sales (eg CrowsNest) or joint development of options to enhance the capability of F35B carriers. Drones that could be ski-jumped launched for supplementing CrowsNest or providing air-air refuelling for F35B’s spring to mind.


Its going to need a ski-ramp…


And I dont see Kaga mentioned anywhere. Is it just Izumo ?


Izumo is not just the name of a ship to be upgraded, it is the name of the class. It is the Izumo class that is to be upgraded.

Douglas Newell

Its a damn fine looking “destroyer”. Despite a break of 60 odd years, the Japanese are able to easily put together a decent modern carrier design, meanwhile the Chinese are still knocking out tweaked copies of an old Russian Carrier design.