DN - Defence Notes

Japan faces headwinds in aircraft exports

15th February 2017 - 08:02 GMT | by Koji Miyake in Tokyo


The Japanese government wishes to reduce development and production costs by exporting defence equipment to foreign nations. While this would boost Japan's domestic defence industry, the nation is finding it very hard competing against foreign makers that have consistently been achieving exports for years.

One example is the Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF). The Japanese government offered it as a replacement for the RAF's Nimrod MR.2, and even despatched one to the International Air Tattoo in 2015. However, the RAF subsequently adopted the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

The Canadian Air Force was considered another candidate to adopt the P-1. It was using the CP-140 Aurora, but it decided to instead modernise existing aircraft.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), which flies the P-3K2, is now being touted as a potential P-1 buyer. The JMSDF sent two P-1s to the country's international fleet review and multinational joint training last year.

Another platform for which there are export hopes is the Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft. The Japanese government will try to export the C-2 to the RNZAF too in its bid to replace five C-130Hs and two Boeing 757s. However, the C-2 will face formidable competition from the Airbus A400M, Embraer KC-390 and Lockheed Martin C-130J.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper reported on 3 January that the Japanese government had started negotiations with New Zealand regarding export of the P-1 and C-2. However, the content of this report was refuted by Wellington.

One problem is that the P-1 is too expensive for New Zealand. Furthermore, the C-2 has higher specifications than the C-130H because it is in the same class as the A400M. The C-130J could be in pole position, especially when it is considered that neighbouring Australia has already adopted it.

All this goes to show that, even though Japan might have modern and capable platforms, it will face severe headwinds in trying to export defence equipment. Japan is very much a new kid on the block, and so it faces challenges in achieving its first significant sale.

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