Japan's aircraft carriers - white elephants or all-purpose Swiss knives?

Last month, Japan revealed one of the worst-kept secrets in global naval circles - its two largest warships, the Izumo-class "helicopter-carrying destroyers", as it has insisted on referring to them, are to all intents and purposes light aircraft carriers.

Of course, Japan still fights shy of calling them aircraft carriers. But it has confirmed that it plans to equip them to operate the F-35B, the short take-off and vertical landing, or "jump jet", variant of one of the world's most advanced stealth fighters.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Japan's aircraft carriers - white elephants or all-purpose Swiss knives?'. Print Edition | Subscribe