Recently the official Twitter page for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force shared a picture with all their 12 Hatsuyuki destroyers lining up and sailing together side by side. The vessels are lined in order of their number of hulls, which are prominently displayed in the picture.
The fact that DD-122, the oldest ship of the group, appears in the picture of the line-up indicates it was probably taken before 2010, when the ship was retired. This suggests that the picture was taken in the past ten years, and even though we don’t have an exact date for the photo, it remains a visual reminder of highly praised destroyers’ sea-going days.
The Hatsuyuki-class vessels undoubtedly deserve some memorialization, at the very least from a technical perspective, because they were the first generation general-purpose destroyers to be used by the J.M.S.D.F.
In collaboration with various manufacturers, including Hitachi Zosen Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, The Hatsuyuki-class frigates were the first to enter Japanese services to get classified as general-purpose or D.D. as a commonly classified term used to describe destroyers that include anti-submarine and anti-aircraft capabilities. Before the Hatsuyuki class was introduced, the J.M.S.D.F. destroyer classes were identified as D.D.A. to represent the anti-aircraft class and DDK to represent the anti-submarine class.
At its peak, twelve destroyers comprised the Hatsuyuki-class fleet, with ships bearing hull numbers that began at DD-122 and ended with the number DD-133. The first ship of the class, known as the J.S. Hatsuuki (DD-122), was laid out in 1979 and launched the following year before being commissioned in 1982. Production soon increased as the other 11 ships were completed and launched towards the end of the 1980s.
The ships measure around 426 feet long and have an estimated displacement of 3000 tons, with ships DD-129 and DD-133 being on the heavier side of the scale when manufacturers started building the ships using steel instead of the aluminum alloy employed for the initial seven. Hatsuyuki is also one of the initial J.M.S.D.F. destroyer classes to utilize gas propulsion, comprising two Kawasaki-Rolls Royce Tyne RM1C gas engines to support cruise and two more powerful Kawasaki-Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines to reach the maximum speeds of about 30 knots.
During the Cold War, Japan held reviews of both series of J.M.S.D.F.’s destroyer fleet and concluded that more work had to be carried out to keep up with the advancements in the technology of the adversaries during the 1970s. For instance, the Soviet Union’s upgraded submarine fleet and anti-ship missiles spurred Japan to increase its naval capabilities. The results of the reviews caused Japan’s J.M.S.D.F. to adopt what’s described as the “eight ships concept’, or eight helicopters which means that every flotilla was comprised of one helicopter destroyer, also known as D.D.H., two guided-missile destroyers, also known as D.D.G.’s as well as five newly designed general-purpose destroyers, to further complete their defenses in the sea.
In terms of weapons and armaments, the Hatsuyuki class became the first in the J.M.S.D.F. to be fitted with weapons such as the Sea Sparrow missile system, a Japanese-made FCS-2 firing control device. It was situated on the stern of the container launcher. It didn’t only have a sea sparrow but also a 76mm naval gun from O.T.O. Melara and 20mm Phalanx close-range self-defense weapons. It also has anti-ship Harpoons from Boeing. In addition, eight RUR-5 anti-submarine rockets and their respective launchers are included on board, along with two triple torpedo tubes HOS-301 explicitly designed for the Mk46-type torpedoes.
However, in 2010 budgetary constraints made it necessary for the J.S. Hatsuyuki, one of the first class of its kind, to be taken off the service. From that point until the year 2016, Six other destroyers took off the field while all five others followed between 2020 and 2021. Japan has significantly modernized its surface combatants over the past two decades, leaving the Hatsuyuki-class lacking in performance.
It’s not the end of the road to the Hatsuyuki class; however, in the period between 1999 and 2016, four of these vessels were used as training vessels. The change footage that’s been released that shows the training vessels in action shows that they have weapons systems in place.
In light of the fact it is the case that the Hatsuyuki-class destroyers’ battle days are over and only a handful was left to train and training, this photo may be used as a proof of the final fleet gathering, with DD-133 not present. However, it was an impressive sight to see.\