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Pliant predators: Mogami class takes on a minesweeper profile

JS Mogami seen here at an International Fleet Review commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force at Sagami Bay. (Issei Kato – Pool/Getty Images)

In mid-July 2023 Japan's Fleet Air Squadron 51, a unit of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Fleet Air Wing, announced that it had successfully conducted the first deck landing of the MCH-101 helicopter on a Mogami-class frigate. The trials involved the airframe with serial number 53 and the JMSDF's third Mogami-class frigate JS Noshiro .

The event was an important milestone for both the Mogami class and the helicopter type. The MCH-101 is Japan's primary airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) platform. The aircraft type is not known to be regularly deployed on the JMSDF's fleet of other surface combatants and has largely operated either from land or from the JMSDF's squadron of Hyūga and Izumo classes of helicopter carriers.

Fleet Air Squadron 51's disclosure of further flight trials between the helicopter type and ship class suggests that the landing is more than just a one-off and there is a formal effort to fully qualify the MCH-101 such that it can operate from the Mogami class.

Compact destroyers

Plans for the Mogami class were first floated in Japan's 2015 defence budget. In an overview document to present the budget, the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) proposed that JPY300 million (USD2 million) be set aside to study the feasibility of constructing a new class of “compact-type hull destroyers with additional multifunctional capabilities”.

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