The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) received its first Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) MCH-101 Airborne Mine Counter Measures helicopter on 10 March 2015.
The chopper is a licence built version of the AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter. Its equipment includes the Northrop Grumman AN/AQS-24A airborne mine hunting system and the Northrop Grumman AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS).
Kawasaki Heavy Industries has led the development of the AMCM variant of the AW101/MCH-101, with AgustaWestland providing technical support. The support includes Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) modified to be able to perform coupled towing patterns with the AN/AQS-24A.
Japan will operate the first MC-101 from Iwakuni Air Base, with the 51st Experimental Squadron before entering operational service in 2016.
The AN/AQS-24A features a high-resolution, side scan sonar for real time, detection, localization and classification of bottom and moored mines at high area coverage rates and a laser line scanner to provide precision optical identification of underwater mines and other objects of interest. Through the ALMDS the data is presented on a mission console in the cabin of the helicopter.
The first MCH-101 is the eight of 13 AW101s that Kawasaki Heavy Industries is building under licence from AgustaWestland for the Japan Maritime Defense Force. Another five MCH-101s are awaiting full configuration, while the JMSDF also received two CH-101s to support Japan’s Antarctic research activities.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is aiming at acquiring 20 indigenous Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft in 2015. Moreover, it demands improvements on the type and the JMSDF will allocate funds to keep its more than 70 Lockheed P-3s up and about.
“The P-1 will be acquired with improved detection capabilities, better flight performance, better information processing capabilities and improved attack capabilities as the successor to the existing fixed-wing patrol aircraft of the JMSDF”, a statement accompanying the FY2015 budget proposal reads.
At the same time the Japanese naval forces would like to give three of their P-3Cs a life-extension program to keep numbers and overall force projection at level. According to the most recent, somewhat unreliable data the JMSDF has now at 4 to 6 P-1s semi-mission capable – out of 13 aircraft built. Three aircraft were financed during FY2014, but most machines still undergo testing.
The proposed funding for 20 P-1s in FY2015 might be evidence that most of the problems – like with the engines – are solved or are soon to be solved and that the P-1 program is somewhat back on track.
The Kawasaki P-1 has a top speed of 540 knots and can operate at 44,000 feet and cover 4,970 miles (8,000 km) on a single fuel load. The four hardpoints underneath the fuselage are able to accommodate a diverse weaponry like AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles or torpedoes and free-fall bombs.
The maritime rotary wing of Land of the Rising Sun is likely to see an increase of 5 new Sikorsky SH-60K Seahawk anti-submarine and anti-ship helicopters, while a pair of older SH-60Js will undergo a life-extension program.
The navy also wants to spend money to develop a third new patrol helicopter mostly aimed to counter the growing threat of Chinese submersibles in the sometimes shallow waters around Japans many islands. Moreover, there are plans to start a new Coastal Observation Unit for surveillance duties and the deployment of Japanese troops to Yonaguni island “for conducting coastal observation of ships and aircraft passing through nearby areas”.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) procures three additional P-1 maritime patrol aircraft in 2014, but will also invest in upgrading the old P-3 Orion fleet.
According to the official FY2014 budget the Ministry of Defense will pay 59.4 billion yen (US$ 6.2 billion) for the P-1, an indigenous four engine jet maritime patrol and surveillance platform produced by Kawasaki. They will be added to the current fleet of four aircraft. “The P-1 has an improved detection and discernment capability, better flight performance, greater information processing capability and a more advanced attack capability as a successor to the existing Lockheed P-3C fleet”, writes a defence official.
However Tokyo is not saying goodbye to the turboprop Orions that quickly. In fact, it puts the equivalent of US$ 15.6 million into a life-extension program for three P-3Cs and another 12.5 million into nose-mounted infrared detection systems and radars for a not released number of other P-3s of the fleet.
Japan is slowly replacing the aging Lockheed P-3C, of which it still has about 75 aircraft in its inventory. Moreover the JMSDF has five EP-3C ELINT, three OP-3C optical reconnaissance, one UP-3C test and three UP-3D training aircraft. However, six Orions were extensively damaged – probably considered beyond repair – when the roof collapsed of the hangar they were in at Atsugi on 17 February this year.
The helicopter fleet of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will also see some capability improvements, with the procurement of four Mitsubishi (Sikorsky) SH-60K Seahawks, while two SH-60Js will undergo overhaul to enable them to serve longer. Currently 46 Julliets and 39 Kilos serve with the JMSDF. Another 19 UH-60J serve as search-and-rescue helicopter.
LATEST UPDATE 11 MARCH 2014 | Snow is great for snowball fights. But when it is on your roof, you better make sure you clear it before it becomes too heavy. That didn’t happen in time at Atsugi in Japan, where four US Navy and six Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Lockheed P-3 Orions were inside a hangar that gave in on 17 February 2014. It might mean the immediate end of the unfortunate machines.
The structure built in 1955 is owned by Nippi Corp. The Kawasaki subsidiary repairs Japanese and US Navy aircraft at that location. Photos taken from the air show damaged Orion tail sections sticking out of the rubble. Since the US is replacing the P-3s with the new jet powered Boeing P-8 Poseidon, the four American aircraft inside might be sold to a scrapyard instead of making it back to the flightline. The Japanese are also slowly withdrawing their P-3s from service, so their six Orions involved might have a similar faith.
Almost a month later they seem still be doing that, according to local sources. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force also released the exact types of their aircraft. Still stuck in the second week of March are 3 Kawasaki license built P-3Cs, a OP-3C (optical reconnaissance), a EP-3 (ELINT) and a UP-3D (training).
Japan. Land of sushi and Fuji, konichiwa and arigato, of geishas, gadgets, yakuza, sake and manga, the excitingly weird and eccentric metropolis that is Tokyo – and above all, land of endless opportunities for aviation photographers such as Robert van Zon. Last month, he boarded a plane bound for Japan and only returned home after stuffing his memory cards with fantastic aviation images from the land of the rising sun. At AIRheads↑FLY, we’ re already looking for the next available flights.
Autumn is usually the time of year for Japanese airshows. On October 27, Tsuiki airbase set the stage for a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) airshow, featuring based F-15J Eagles and Mitsubishi F-2 fighter aircraft from Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan. Things are about to change at Tsuiki however, as Japan wishes to reinforce its assets further south at Okinawa. The F-15J Eagles of Tsuiki-based 304 Hikotai will likely move to Okinawa. Their space at Tsuiki will be taken up by additional F-2s from Misawa in the north. This will make Tsuiki ‘Mitsubishi F-2’ heaven in the future.
A few hours by car south of Tsuiki is Kanoya, the place to be for Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) aircraft. Kanoya is the most southern military airfield on the Japanese mainland. Most prominent inmates here are the many P-3C Orions that guard Japans coastal waters. The base also houses helicopters of several types, though.
Want more military choppers? Akeno is where to go in Japan. The airbase is small but houses a large number of army helicopters in varying shapes and sizes. You name it: AH-1 Cobras, UH-1 Hueys, CH-47 Chinooks, AH-64 Apaches, locally developed OH-1 light attack & recce helicopters, OH-6 Cayuses, UH-60 Black Hawks, it’s all there, as is the helicopter pictured below.
If there ever was a prize for great sounding airfield names, Hamamatsu would definitely be a contender. The airbase is home to Boeing E-767 tanker AWACS aircraft, plus large amounts of Kawasaki T-4s, a Japanese crossover between the British Aerospace Hawk and the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet. On October 20, Hamamatsu hosted an open house.
If you find yourself in Japan and you fancy the ‘special’ stuff, then maybe Gifu is where you should go. The airfield is located north of Nagoya and is home to the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan, which more or less stands for test squadron. In recent years, Gifu was the birth place for aircraft like the Kawasaki P-1 and the Kawasaki C-2, seen below.
Want the good stuff, the noise, the smell, the looks, the raw power of military jets? Then look no further than Hyakuri. This airbase north of Tokyo is a mandatory stop for aviation geeks because of its based F-15J Eagles and F-4EJ and RF-4EJ Phantoms. It doesn’t get much better than that, and bear in mind; the Phantom’s days in JASDF are counting. Their numbers are dwindling and their successor – the F-35A Lightning II – will enter the stage in a few years time.
After Hyakuri, everything else is a bonus. Here’s some dessert from Nagoya Komaki, the airfield that is home to the JASDF C-130 Hercules fleet and Boeing 767 tanker aircraft. Mitsubishi Aircraft performs maintenance here on a variety of military aircraft. Last but not least, all of the 94 Mitsubishi F-2s ordered by the JASDF were built here.
Many, many (and we do mean ‘many’) thanks of course to Robert van Zon for sharing his pictures here at AIRheads↑FLY . We do appreciate contributions by readers!