Japan Builds More XXLarge CG Cutters

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PLH32 Akitsushima. Photo by Kaidai

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Japanese Coast Guard is once again building very large coast guard cutters with the launch of Reimei (PLH 33).

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) recently launched a brand new patrol vessel for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). This vessel is a variant of the Shikishima-class, with two previous vessels built in 1992 and 2013. Two more vessels are also scheduled to be built in the future (emphasis applied–Chuck).

This class is going to be something of an oddity, because it looks like there will be at least 30 years between the commissioning of the first ship and the fifth. In fact the Japanese may be planning to replace the first ship of the class with the fifth (that is only speculation on my part, but the Japanese do not keep there ships nearly as long as the USCG. Referencing my Combat Fleets of the World from 2013, the Japan Coast Guard had no ships older than 35 years).

Before the Chinese built their very large Coast Guard cutters, the two earlier ships of this class, Shikishima (commissioned 1992) and her sister ship, Akitsushima (commissioned 2013), were largest cutters in the world, at 150.0m (492 ft), 9300 ton (full load), twice as large as Bertholf class cutters.

The South Koreans have also built some exceptionally large cutters. None of these ships have particularly large crews. Crews are about the same size or smaller than the crews of the Bertholf class. All seem to be good for about 25 knots and have facilities for two helicopters.


The first two Japanese ships don’t have the 76mm guns found on the extremely large Chinese and South Korean cutters, but they are well armed for cutters with four gun mounts on each ship. There does seem to be some variation in the way the Japanese ships are armed–not too surprising considering the first two ships were commissioned 21 years apart, and seven years will separate this third ship from the second of the class.


Japanese 20 mm/76 Gatling Gun. Note the camera for remote targeting. JMSDF Photograph.

Just about all Japan Coast Guard cutters have the 20mm Sea Vulcan, which uses the same 20mm guns as those in the Phalanx Close in Weapon System (CIWS) but in a simpler mount. They have a 3000 round per minute rate of fire and a reported effective range of 1,625 yards (1,490 m). The first ships of the class had two mounts forward of the bridge at the O-2 deck level.

The first two ships have two mounts for the Oerlikon 35mm. These guns have a 550 round per minute rate of fire per gun and a reported effective range against surface targets of 8,700 yards (8,000 m). The first ship has two twin mounts, but it appears the second has two simplified single mounts. If the third ship follows typical Japan Coast Guard practice, the larger mounts will continue to be in the 30 to 40mm range. If on the other hand, they mount something larger, it will mark a departure for the JCG, I would assume, in response to the increased militancy of the China Coast Guard.

In the world of Asian Coast Guards, it may simply be that their large size is their primary armament. These nations seem to regularly engage in shoving matches. In at least one case, the China Coast Guard reportedly sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel by ramming.

14 thoughts on “Japan Builds More XXLarge CG Cutters

  1. Definitely an interesting tale of her class. Lead ship, Shikishima, essentially built to escort nuclear fuel back and forth to Europe. Then the second, Akitsushima. laid down 21 years later to answer territorial disputes and distant anit-piracy measures

  2. We are heading towards an age where ‘collision’ will be the weapon of choice in constabulary actions. Ships are going to get bigger. Ice strengthening will suddenly become a requirement….

    Russian Okean class….


    • The second photo there is from the Cod Wars between Great Britain and Iceland, before the UN Convention on Law of the Sea that established the 200 mile EEZ. (Incidentally Iceland won.)

      • Iceland won only because they threatened to withdraw from NATO.

        The UK had a good run in Icelandic waters. UNCLOS is one of the few positives to come out of the UN. It was very civilised war.

        The ship is a Russian FSB Okean class ‘icebreaker patrol vessel’: 2700 long tons, speed 21 knots (a knot or 4 wouldn’t hurt), range 12000 nautical miles, crew 44, 1 x 76mm mount, and a hangar for Ka-27. Not bad.

        The main problem the Japanese and other coastguards face isn’t the Chinese coastguard but the China Maritime Militia.

      • By then it was apparent the World was headed toward 200 EEZs, It was a very civilized war, between civilized people. Britain never exercised their obvious military superiority.

        Now your problem is keeping the Spanish and French out of your EEZ.

        The Chinese militia is certainly a problem, but they don’t justify 10,000 ton cutters.

  3. @ Chuck

    At the moment they are entitled to be there ‘legally’. Fishing is the symbolic issue for many when it comes to Brexit. It will be interesting to see what happens if there is ‘no deal’ and we just default to international conventions and norms. Quotas are increasingly managed remotely. But those systems only work in a system where the majority comply. The RN doesn’t have enough assets to arrest several hundred foreign trawlers; foreign trawlers under the protection of navies with more patrol assets than the RN has.

    As 10,000 ton cutters other 10,000 cutters justify them. But presence is a fundamental of naval action, you have to be there, and with the militia the Chinese will be everywhere.

      • Then again Chuck, the UK doesn’t have the fleet that it once does and now they have to reconstitute their fleet. I think in the UK’s case, they seriously need something like a Type 31 frigate or something like the National Security cutter.

      • We certainly need to keep all the B1 if not crewed then in high readiness until after Brexit.

  4. @ Nicky

    The Legends are too expensive for us. I don’t think the T31 is viable as there is no way we will get 5 hulls for the budget. One of the contenders is based on Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate. The related Absalon class cost more than T31 (per hull) 15 years ago.

    If it were me in charge of the budget I would buy Dutch Holland class OPVs. We could perhaps even afford to raft their diesels, add a sonar, and a dipping sonar to an embarked Wildcat. Though I have often wondered if it would be better if we scrapped the program and just buy a further T26. (Perhaps even use as a test bed for Sea Viper Lite……….)

    • If you look at the Legend class cutters right now, they would fit perfectly for the Royal Navy’s Light Frigate. Infact HII did come out with a upgraded version of the Legend class cutters. The Holland-class offshore patrol vessel is nice but I don’t see anyway you can upgun them for ASUW or ASW work. They would be severely limited. On the other hand, the Legend class NSC has room for growth and can in theory be up gunned for ASUW or ASW work. As for the price, the Royal Navy can get the NSC in its current configuration at $735m a ship.

  5. Pingback: China Maritime Safety Agency to Build 10,700 Ton Cutter | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  6. Pingback: Japan Coast Guard Grows and Grows | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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