(Updated, see bottom)

Yesterday Japan Probe posted a short clip in which two Japanese TV hosts took a ferry tour of the Japanese/U.S. anchorage at Yokosuka, just outside Tokyo. Apparently the hosts go looking for the U.S. Navy, but the irony of the clip is that all the ships featured in it are MSDF ships. Hull 174 with the familiar Aegis profile? That’s Kirishima, which performed backup duty last year during the North Korean missile test.

But. There appear to be two ships to Kirishima‘s port. One, which the bridge is visible, appears to be a MSDF destroyer of early 1990s vintage. The second is not visible except for a large, polyhedral structure topped with a black band. This is odd for two reasons:

1. MSDF ships crown the top of the stack with a black band. This object appears to have a black band.

2. That it would be a stack is odd for two reasons: stacks aren’t usually the highest part of the ship. Also, there is no benefit in raising the stacks, because it’s a huge heat emitter. On stealthy ships, stacks are hidden as much as possible.

So, what is it? Some ideas:

  • A shore-based object that merely looks like it’s on a ship at dock (which would make it very big). That coincidentally has a big black band painted on it.
  • An object on an American ship that I’m not aware of. American ships are occasionally tied up next to MSDF ones at Yokosuka.
  • A prototype enclosed mast/sensor designed to make future Japanese ships more stealthy, perhaps for the future 19DD-class destroyers. Examples of this would be AEM/S fitted on USS Arthur Radford and the HMS Daring-class of destroyers.

So…anyone have any ideas?

UPDATE: Makoto writes in to say:

The bridge and the structure you see Kirishima’s port side, are actually one ship. ASE-6102 Asuka.

Makoto’s link didn’t come through, but there are links to the ship, here, here, and here. Apparently it’s a purpose-built experimental ship, on the hull of a Murasame-class destroyer. Thanks!

No big mystery…well, like I said, it’s a learning blog!

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch