Japan Table of Contents
The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) had an authorized strength in 1992 of 46,000 and maintained some 44,400 personnel and operated 155 major combatants, including thirteen submarines, sixty-four destroyers and frigates, forty-three mine warfare ships and boats, eleven patrol craft, and six amphibious ships. It also flew some 205 fixed-wing aircraft and 134 helicopters (see table 41, Appendix). Most of these aircraft were used in antisubmarine and mine warfare operations.
The MSDF is commanded by the chief of the maritime staff and includes the maritime staff office, the self-defense fleet, five regional district commands, the air-training squadron, and various support units, such as hospitals and schools. The maritime staff office, located in Tokyo, serves the chief of staff in command and supervision of the force. The self-defense fleet, headquartered at Yokosuka, is charged with defense of all waters around the Japanese Archipelago. It commands four escort flotillas (two based in Yokosuka and one each in Sasebo and Maizuru), the fleet air force headquartered at Atsugi, two submarine flotillas based at Kure and Yokosuka, two mine-sweeping flotillas based at Kure and Yokosuka, and the fleet training command at Yokosuka.
Five district units act in concert with the fleet to guard the waters of their jurisdictions and provide shore-based support. District headquarters are located in Ominato, Maizuru, Yokosuka, Kure, and Sasebo.
MSDF recruits receive three months of basic training followed by courses in patrol, gunnery, mine sweeping, convoy operations, and maritime transportation. Flight students, all upper-secondary school graduates, enter a two-year course. Officer candidate schools offer six-month courses to qualified enlisted personnel and those who have completed flight school. Graduates of four-year universities, the four-year National Defense Academy, and particularly outstanding enlisted personnel undergo a one-year officer course at the Officer Candidate School at Eta Jima (site of the former Imperial Naval Academy). Special advanced courses for officers are also available in such fields as submarine duty and flight training. The MSDF operates its own staff college in Tokyo for senior officers.
The large volume of coastal commercial fishing and maritime traffic limits in-service sea training, especially in the relatively shallow waters required for mine laying, mine sweeping, and submarine rescue practice. Training days are scheduled around slack fishing seasons in winter and summer--providing about ten days during the year. The MSDF maintains two oceangoing training ships and conducted annual long-distance on-the-job training for graduates of the one-year officer candidate school.
The naval force's capacity to perform its defense missions varies according to the task. MSDF training emphasizes antisubmarine and antiaircraft warfare. Defense planners believe the most effective approach to combating submarines entails mobilizing all available weapons, including surface combatants, submarines, aircraft, and helicopters, and the numbers and armament of these weapons were increased in the Mid-Term Defense Estimate. A critical weakness remains, however, in the ability to defend such weapons against air attack. Because most of the MSDF's air arm is detailed to antisubmarine warfare, the ASDF has to be relied on to provide air cover, an objective that competes unsuccessfully with the ASDF's primary mission of air defense of the home islands. Extended patrols over sea lanes are also beyond the ASDF's capabilities. The fleet's capacity to provide ship-based anti-air- attack protection is limited by the absence of aircraft carriers and the inadequate number of shipborne long-range surface-to-air missiles and close-range weapons. The fleet is also short of underway replenishment ships and seriously deficient in all areas of logistic support. These weaknesses seriously compromise the ability of the MSDF to fulfill its mission and to operate independently of the United States Air Force and the United States Seventh Fleet.
Data as of January 1994
Japan Table of Contents