Tokyo, Japan — The Tokyo-based Toshiba Group said on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with a Japanese company to build a new construction base for the United States-built nuclear missile submarine Hiryu, a first step toward the US launch of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Toshiba’s submarine Hiyu is set to be decommissioned in 2021.
The company is the world’s largest supplier of nuclear submarines.
Hiryu is designed to carry nuclear-capable aircraft carriers and to provide a naval foothold for Japan’s growing military.
The Japanese defense ministry said last year that Japan would launch a new carrier in 2020.
Toshio Naito, head of Toshiba’s subsidiary in Tokyo, said the Japanese company will provide construction support and help build facilities for Hiryus deployment.
Hiroshima, the first Japanese aircraft carrier built in the 1950s, is scheduled to arrive at the United Nations naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, in 2021 for the annual Pacific Rim military exercise.
Japan’s first aircraft carrier, the Shikoku-class carrier USS Chakra, will leave Yokosaka for the base in 2021, according to a US Navy statement.
Tashiba also plans to build two missile submarines, the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-built Mitsubishima JL-1 and Mitsubushi JL2, that are part of the JL series of submarines.
The JL is the first of the new submarines to be built.
The new JLs are expected to carry cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles.
Tobias Duhle, a defence analyst at the Munich Institute for International and Security Studies, said that Tokyo’s signing of the agreement was a first indication that Japan was willing to invest in the US nuclear carrier program.
Japan, he said, would be looking to China for its supply of submarines and that the US was looking to Russia and Iran for their nuclear program.
“Japan has been very open about its willingness to help supply these types of submarines, but also, the Japanese have been extremely careful to keep a tight lid on their own nuclear program,” Duhles said.