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New Baby Flattop

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The JMSDF has a new helicopter carrier. See here and here for a bit more on Japan’s slow-motion carrier program. As the authors note, whenever one of this baby carrier comes into service, questions emerge over whether it could, at some point, operate the F-35B. In most cases the answer seems to be “difficult, not impossible.” The potential emerging market for a serious VTOL fighter makes me wonder, again, about whether continuing production and development of the Yak-141 would have been a good idea for the Russians. No stealth, but VTOL, supersonic, and apparently with a decent weapons load. The Wikipedia page says that LockMart entered into a development agreement with Yakolev after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that the deal went nowhere and plane was cancelled. I don’t know anything about it, but I gotta wonder…

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  • wengler

    And maybe one potential market for a Russian VTOL(India)? Maybe Brazil? Japan wouldn’t buy military aircraft from Russian even in their post-Soviet variety. Too many outstanding political issues.

  • fka AWS

    I realize a lot of people are familiar with these acronyms, but WTH is a VTOL? And JMSDF – Japanese ___ ___ Defense Force?

    • Mechazaurus

      Vertical Take Off and Landing

      Japanese Maritime Self defense force.

    • joe from Lowell

      Zooming back a bit, I would be interested in seeing more “Defense Policy 101” type posts from Robert. A lot of his posts seem to be written for an audience that has more of a defense-wonk background than most of us here seem to have. I’d enjoy some backgrounders.

      • Kurzleg

        Seconded

      • Patrick

        In that vein, I was really impressed with this guest post at Charlie Pierce’s place about defining tactical/operational/strategic levels of warfare:

        http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/bateman-civil-war-intro-080113

        Lt. Col. Bateman is using this as a lead in to a series on the Civil War, but this is useful information for anyone ready to dip a toe in military history or thought.

  • jkay

    Why should they want F35s? Are they in any danger of ever working?

    Because they want their carrier to be just a massive $$$ waste like RN’s noncarriers?

  • Always figured since the Soviet hybrid carriers were designed to defend their SSBNs in their bastions that the YAK 141’s mission was to shoot down P-3s and other Allied MPA, not to provide air defense or attack ships. For that they might have worked.

    • DocAmazing

      Adoption of the YAK 141 would have given people an opportunity to write “swiveling yaw jet”, which is reason enough.

  • Pseudonym

    You kids are so cute, still thinking the Tooth Fairy’s going to leave a bunch of F-35B STOVL liftfan planes under your pillows.

    Seriously, though, is this still the main sticking point for the whole F-35 program? And it is more properly called STOVL than VTOL, right? Or does that only apply to ski-jump carriers?

  • Dave

    I thought the coverage of this event here was so alarmist as to verge on racism.

    I was, however, impressed with the fact that Japan can get one of these for only $1billion, when the UK is apparently committed to paying five times as much for a ship, the Prince of Wales, it has publicly declared it will never commission…

    • The UK has not, in fact, declared it will never commission HMS Big Ears; rather that, at the moment, it is not intended to operate both ships at the same time rather than rotating them between operational and reserve status. Also, the NAO estimate for Big Ears is £987 million, which is not $5 billion. You would get an answer closer to £2.5bn (which still isn’t $5bn) if you chose to average the development costs over the ships rather than loading them on the first of class.

      • Dave

        Well, 1) what a huge relief that is; and 2) let’s wait for a) the bill, and b) the politicians to scrape the bottom of the public-finance barrel…

  • Their thinking about this is quite weird; they developed a VTOL but also operated conventional jets STOBAR off the same ships. If you can launch Flanker, why bother with something less? The answer might be that they discovered that managing the deck in STOBAR is really hard (which is why the UK decided against it). But why did they then give up on VTOL and concentrate on maritime Flanker?

    • Helmut Monotreme

      That was a new acronym to me but according to teh wikipedia: Short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier, combining elements of both short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) and catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR).

  • Helmut Monotreme

    I’m no military historian or futurist, but wouldn’t a fun-sized* carrier like this one be great for drones as well as helicopters? That way they could sidestep the whole question of whether the VTOL f-35 will ever be ready for prime time and foreign export.

    • wengler

      I think that all potential adversaries in Japan’s neighborhood have the ability to take out the current-generation drones quite easily.

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