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Japan commissions third Hibiki-class ocean surveillance ship

Hibiki-class SURTASS ship JS Aki
JS Aki commissioning ceremony. Photo: JMSDF

The Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) commissioned its third catamaran-based Hibiki-class ocean surveillance ship in a ceremony on March 4.

JS Aki (pennant number AOS 5203), as the ship is named, entered service some 13 months after it was launched by Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding at its Tamano Works yard.

The construction of JS Aki comes decades after the first two ships in the class were built. The predecessors entered service in 1991 and 1992 after being developed in response to the threat from submarines operating in Japanese waters.

In May 2018, the defense ministry decided to build a modernized version of the ships, with more capable sensor systems and capabilities. Reports on the value of the contract Mitsui E&S received to build the 67-meter ship range from around $164 million to $250 million.

JS Aki during launch in February 2020. Photo: JMSDF

The Hibiki-class operates the US-developed and -installed Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) and contributes data to the US Navy’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), which provides the US Navy, and consequently also Japan, with its primary means of detecting submarines. The ships have a small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) design and feature a flight deck for helicopter operations.