In response to a personnel shortage, the Maritime Self-Defense Force will as early as next month launch a new type of multimission destroyer that is smaller than existing ones and can sail with a smaller crew.
The new 3,900-ton destroyer, called FFM, is set to be put into commission in 2022. It will patrol and monitor Chinese warships and others mainly in the East China Sea.
The MSDF is facing recruitment difficulties as young people shy away from group living on ships and working at sea, where smartphone use is restricted.
According to the Defense Ministry, the recruitment of fixed-term MSDF members, who carry out the MSDF’s field-level operations, stood at about 60% of the planned number in fiscal 2018 and 90% in fiscal 2019.
The FFM vessel will be operated with a crew of about 100, half the figure for conventional destroyers and a third of that for Aegis destroyers. To improve operational efficiency, several crews will work on the new vessel in rotation.
FFM destroyers are built at a Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co. facility in Tamano, Okayama Prefecture, and a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. shipyard in Nagasaki.
The FFM vessel is priced at about ¥48 billion, ¥25 billion cheaper than cutting-edge conventional destroyers. It is capable of mine warfare.
The ministry plans to expand the MSDF destroyer fleet to 54 from the current level just below 50. In the fiscal 2019-2023 period for the current Medium-Term Defense Program, 10 FFM vessels are slated to be constructed.
In the long term, FFM vessels are expected to account for 22, or nearly half, of the MSDF destroyer fleet.
The government is considering expanding the destroyer fleet and building new vessels dedicated to missile defense as alternatives to the previously planned introduction of Aegis Ashore missile interceptor systems. Personnel shortages are also a bottleneck for these options.