The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is arguably the second-most powerful navy in the Pacific. With four small aircraft carriers (the Izumo- and Hyuga-class vessels are technically destroyers but, let’s be honest, they’re really carriers) and a good number of modern destroyers, this fleet can kick a lot of butt. But with so much eye-drawing firepower, it’s easy to overlook one particularly important ship.
That ship is the Abukuma-class destroyer escort.
In World War II, American destroyer escorts, the forerunners of the modern frigate, served primarily as anti-submarine assets. The Abukuma-class ships (all bearing the names of Imperial Japanese Navy cruisers from World War II) have the same mission. Now, if you think a destroyer escort can’t do much, we invite you to have a look at what USS England did in about two weeks’ time.
There’s a reason Japan works very hard in the anti-submarine warfare arena: American submarines feasted on the waters surrounding Japan during World War II, starving the country and making life at sea a waking nightmare. Don’t just take our word for it — ask the Kongo or Shinano, two of the most notable kills American subs notched during World War II.
Three of Japan’s six anti-submarine frigates at the dock.
(Photo by Luck-one)
The 16th Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the Abukuma packs a single 76mm gun, two twin Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, an eight-round Mk 112 ASROC launcher, a Mk 15 Phalanx, and two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts. She packs no surface-to-air missiles and has no helicopters.
JS Abukuma (in the rear) escorting the helicopter carrier JS Ise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denver Applehans)
Japan planned to build 11 of these ships, but only bought six. Still, these vessels are equipped with sonar and have crews trained in hunting (and sinking) submarines.
Watch the video below to learn more about this Japanese sub-hunting ship!