MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan has launched the first of a new class of multimission frigates, which will incorporate increased use of new technologies such as unmanned systems and reduced radar cross-section.

The 30FFM ship, which has been named the Kumano, was launched in a ceremony at shipbuilder Mitsui’s facilities at Okayama, Japan, on Nov. 19. It is expected to be commissioned into the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2022.

Notably, Kumano is the second ship of the class; the first ship is still under construction at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagasaki shipyard. MHI’s frigate design was selected as the winner by Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency in 2017 during a competition.

The Japanese government previously ordered six frigates, and it has requested a further $951 million for two more ships in its latest defense budget request. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has an eventual requirement for 22 frigates, which will be built by both MHI and Mitsui.

The 30FFM, which was previously classed as a destroyer and given the designation 30DX, is a 435-foot-long design that displaces 3,900 tons, but 5,500 tons when fully loaded. It features a stealthy design for reduced radar cross-section and the ability to launch, operate and recover unmanned surface and underwater vessels.

Other features include an integrated mast fitted with a Mitsubishi Electric OPY-2 multifuction radar and other sensors, an integrated combat information center, and increased use of automation to reduce the crew requirement onboard to 90 sailors.

The frigate will also be equipped with anti-mine and anti-submarine sonars, and have a hangar for operating license-produced Seahawk helicopters. Other shipboard weapon systems include the Raytheon RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile and MHI Type 17 anti-ship missile.

Propulsion for the 30FFM class will be supplied by a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine and a pair of MAN 12V28/33D STC diesel engines in a combined diesel and gas arrangement, with the ships capable of reaching 30 knots.

Earlier this week, Singapore’s Business Times newspaper reported that Indonesia intends to purchase four 30FFM frigates as part of its plan to modernize the country’s military, adding that the agreement comes after a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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