USS George Washington. U.S. Navy photo.

 

Here’s an idea I hadn’t heard of before, and it’s kind of brilliant. Hats off to Galrahn at Information Dissemination:

If the US Navy truly believes the Carrier Strike Group is the focal point of naval power, why wouldn’t the US Navy examine the possibilities for an integrated, international option when it comes to carrier air wings? Australia cannot afford to build aircraft carriers and Japan cannot legally build aircraft carriers, but there isn’t a technical reason why both countries couldn’t field and operate a squadron of aircraft capable of flying off a US Navy aircraft carrier. (Link)

Read the whole thing. In principle, I really dig it. Putting Japanese planes on American carriers is exactly the kind of loophole that the Japanese government would go for. “We can’t have our own carriers, but it’s okay to put Japanese naval aviation on someone else’s.” That, and the incremental building up to a real aircraft carrier as we are seeing with first the Hyuga and then the 22DDH carriers would combine all of the essential elements for Japan to eventually have its own carriers. It’s not the construction of carriers that’s the difficult part, but rather what goes on once the carrier goes to sea. Managing the air wing, keeping pilots practiced in takeoffs and landings, and keeping a safe and efficient flight deck takes a lot of work and experience. It has been described as an art form. This is all experience Japan had before World War II, but has since lost. (This is also part of the reason why I wouldn’t expect a Chinese aircraft carrier to be fully operational until 10-15 years after commissioning, and why I think the flight deck of such a carrier is going to rack up numerous holes in the first five years of operation.)

I like it for other reasons, too. Japan is becoming an insular country again, and integrating the Self Defense Forces with those of the United States might help open it up again. It’s about time, after 65 years, that a joint U.S. – Japanese command was finally established. Finally, all SDF personnel assigned to an American ship would have to be fluent in English. I’m beginning to think that if Japan is to be a competitive country, it’s going to have to become a bilingual country, and making at least part of the SDF bilingual would be an example for the rest of the nation.

The problem is, what happens if the U.S. decides to actually use the air wing? Say, if the USS George Washington gets pushed into the Indian Ocean in support of OEF. Japanese planes won’t fly those missions. Do they get offloaded and replaced with American planes instead? What if the U.S. gets into a confrontation with China that Japan does not approve of or doesn’t have the stomach for? What then?

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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 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch