Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force ships visiting Cape Town

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The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) is making a historic visit to Cape Town this week, when two training ships will arrive in port. This will be the first such visit since the founding of the Maritime Self-Defence Force after the Second World War.

JS Kashima and JS Shimakaze are due to arrive in Cape Town for refuelling on 2 July. On 3 July, at 10:00, the South African Naval Band will perform, and the Flag Officer Fleet (FOF) of the SA Navy will be on board for a welcome address and other activities. There will then be a special open ship, luncheon and evening reception on board for a limited number of guests.

On Thursday 4 July, the ships will be open to the public, including South African citizens, from 10:00-11:30 and 13:00-15:00. They will be berthed at Berth E and F beside the Cruise Terminal in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

There are no major events scheduled for Friday 5 July, and the ships are scheduled to set sail at 09:00 on Saturday 6 July, with a local band playing.

Approximately 570 people, including about 190 graduates of the 74th General Officer Candidate Course, are on board the JS Kashima and JS Shimakaze as part of the Overseas Training Cruise 2024. This is designed to provide Trainee Officers with on-the-job training opportunities to reinforce knowledge and skills learned at the Officer Candidate School, to familiarise them with the sea, and to cultivate qualities required as naval officers, the Japanese Embassy said.

The cruise also aims to improve understanding of the activities of foreign countries and develop global awareness through joint exercises with these countries and sailing in the Philippine Sea, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, etc.

The 175-day long cruise began on 20 May and is set to conclude on 11 November this year, after covering approximately 35 000 nautical miles (65 000 km). Rear Admiral Nishiyama Takahiro, Commander of Training Squadron, is heading up the 2024 cruise.

Ports of call include Brunei (Muara), Seychelles (Victoria), South Africa (Cape Town), Senegal (Dakar), Italy (Naples), Türkiye (Istanbul), Spain (Valencia), Germany (Hamburg), United Kingdom (London and Southampton), United States (Norfolk and Pearl Harbor), and Mexico (Acapulco).

Japanese Ambassador Ushio Shigeru told a recent function in Pretoria that the visit coincides with the founding of the Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF) on 1 July 1954. “For Japan, 1954 was nine years after Japan’s defeat in World War II and three years after the Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed. The JSDF was established as a minimum self-defence force in response to the worsening situation in East Asia.”

The Ambassador added that over the past 70 years, since its foundation, the JSDF has continued to develop, fostering a peaceful nation and saving many lives in large-scale disasters in Japan and abroad. Furthermore, the JSDF continues to contribute to the peace and stability of the international community today.

On the African continent, the JSDF participated for the first time in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation in 1993 in Mozambique. In 2009, Japan began anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and established a base in Djibouti in 2011. From 2011, an engineering unit was deployed in South Sudan and, in 2014, JSDF transport aircraft delivered personal protective equipment to Ghana during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Currently, the JSDF continues to dispatch personnel to UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan and is also engaged in anti-piracy operations in Djibouti.

JS Kashima is flagship of the JMSDF Training Fleet. She is 143 metres long, with a beam of 18 metres, and a draft of 4.6 metres. Kashima has a full load displacement of 4 050 tons. She is powered by a combined diesel or gas (CODOG) system, giving a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h).

The ship is armed with a single Otobreda 76 mm gun and two triple 324 mm torpedo tube sets. Four saluting cannon are also carried. Kashima has a ship’s company of 370, including officer cadets. Cadets are accommodated in two-person staterooms, allowing cadets of both sexes to train aboard the ship. The open aft deck was designed for use as a ceremonial and exercise assembly area, but can be used as a temporary helicopter landing zone.

JS Kashima was launched in February 1994, and commissioned into the JMSDF in January 1995.

JS Shimakaze is a Hatakaze-class guided missile destroyer, reclassified as a training ship in 2021. Shimakaze was launched in January 1987, and commissioned in March 1988. The vessel is 150 metres long, has a beam of 16.4 metres and draft of 4.8 metres. She is powered by four gas turbines giving a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h). Complement is 260 people.

The JS Shimakaze.

Armament comprises two 130 mm Mark 42 deck guns, eight Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles, a single SM-1MR Mk 13 Mod4 ship-to-air missile launcher, an ASROC Mk 112 octuple launcher, two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS, and two Type 68 triple torpedo tubes. An aft deck can accommodate a single SH-60K helicopter.