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Despite the Defense Ministry's denial that the helicopter carrier Izumo, launched in 2015, was planned to be refitted into an aircraft carrier, former Maritime Self-Defense Force executives confirmed that that is how the blueprints were drawn up.
“It is only reasonable to design (the Izumo) with the prospect of possible changes of the circumstances in the decades ahead,” a then MSDF executive told The Asahi Shimbun. “We viewed that whether the Izumo should be actually refitted could be decided by the government.”
The former executive said a consensus was reached privately among the MSDF that the Izumo should be considered for conversion into an aircraft carrier. But the MSDF couldn't explain the need publicly due to the government's view that aircraft carriers capable of launching large-scale attacks are equivalent to the military capability prohibited by the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
Ever since the Izumo's construction, experts both in and outside Japan have pointed out the possibility of turning it into a full-fledged aircraft carrier.
However, the Defense Ministry publicly denied any plan to deploy fighter jets with strike capabilities on the Izumo and contended that it was not an aircraft carrier.
The ministry has since done an abrupt about-face and now is mulling the possibility of refitting the vessel into an aircraft carrier.
The approximately 250-meter long Izumo’s elevator connecting the deck with the hangar was designed to accommodate the F-35B fighter, which measures about 15 meters in length and about 11 meters in width.
Paint that can withstand the exhaust heat generated from F-35 fighter jets during landings and takeoffs was selected for the deck of the Izumo. It has also been expected to retrofit the Izumo with a sloping deck for takeoffs, the former MSDF executives said.