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”.
UPDATED 2 JANUARY 2015 | Once again a catastrophe hit an Asian airliner. Air Asia’s Airbus A320-216 with flight number QZ8501 was officially declared missing on 28 December at 06:24 local time en route from Surabaya to Singapore. On 30 December the sad but expected news came that floating bodies and possible even the contours of the plane were spotted in the Java Sea, about 6 miles (10 km) from the location where all contact with flight QZ8501 was lost. That is about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Indonesian city of Pangkalan Bun at Kalimantan.
Radar controllers at both Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta IAP and the radar station of Kohanudnas lost contact with the plane at 06:17 on Sunday the 28th at coordinates 03 22’46 S and 108 50’07 E. Very bad weather has been reported in the area, with the pilot asking an alternative route likely to avoid it. The aircraft never reached it’s destination where it was suppose to land at 08:30 local time, nor did its crew send a distress signal.
According to high-ranking Indonesian Naval Aviation commander, Air Asia’s flight QZ8501 is thought to have crashed into Tanjung Pandan waters in Bangka Belitung area, where the water levels are as shallow as 75 to 150 feet (25 to 50 metres). Indonesia’s call during Monday for the US to assist in the search operations was heard. CNN reported just before Midnight London time that the destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) – with on board one or two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawks – is en route to help. A US Navy Boeing P-8I Poseidon is also expected.
Initial reports say that the A320 flight crew contacted Jakarta Air Traffic Control at 06:12 local time and requested an altitude increase from 34,000 to 38,000 feet because of clouds. The plane is also said to have taken a route away from its pre-planned flightpath to evade turbulent weather. The aircraft in question is registered as PK-AXC and had its first flight on 25 September 2008 according to the Airfleets database. The Air Asia plane had taken off from Surabaya at 05:36 local time.
At the time of the disappearance six other planes were in proximity of Flight QZ8501, on somewhat similar routes. Those planes include aircraft from Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Emirates, according to reports released by AirNav, the Indonesian national Flight Navigation Service.
There was some debate about the time of disappearance – reports also indicated 07:24, but that seems to be the fault of the difference in time zones between Singapore and Indonesia. After the plane was lost, a search-and-rescue operation was started. But despite great efforts the mission was severely hampered by the weather conditions and darkness, with authorities even pausing the efforts overnight to find the missing plane. The search was resumed at about 06:45 Jakarta time / 07:45 Singapore time on Monday 29 December 2014.
From the air travellers 149 are from Indonesia, three from South Korea, one from Singapore, one from Malaysia and one from the United Kingdom. Six of the crew members are Indonesian, the co-pilot has the French nationality. Air Asia says the crew of A320 flight QZ8501 is seasoned, with Captain Iriyanto having 6,100 flying on Air Asia’s A320. First office Remi Emmanuel Plesel had a total of 2,275 flying hours with Air Asia Indonesia. According to the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU), missing Air Asia Airbus A320’s captain is a former Air Force pilot who used to fly the Northrop F-5 Tiger with 14 Squadron (Skadron Udara 14) based at Madiun/Iswahjudi.
Initial air force reports indicate that Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) was contacted at 07:55 local time (this might be 06:55 depending on the initial mix-up of time zones) to help search for the missing plane. One of the TNI-AU C-130 Hercules from 31 Squadron at from Halim Airbase went airborne on Sunday at 13:10 local time, but a spokesperson quickly called the weather already “rather challenging”. The Herc piloted by Pilot Mayor Pnb Akal Juang flew the Karimata Islands and surrounding areas down to an altitude of 1500 feet, while its crew and 11 pre-selected local journalist from Jakarta based media on board searched in vain. The C-130 returned without finding anything on 18:40 local time.
A spokesperson also said the TNI-AU scrambled a Boeing 737 MPA from Supadio/Pontianak at West Kalimantan, but is was not immediately clear if that was a mistake or if the plane just happened to be there since the 737s are not officially based there. Moreover an Airbus Helicopters NAS-332 Super Puma was ordered to search, likely coming from Skadron Udara 6 based at Bogor/Atang Senjaya Java. On Monday 29 December the Indonesian armed forces sent six aircraft in the air: two C-130s, a B-737-200 maritime surveillance aircraft, a Navy PTDI CN235 Persuaders and two Super Puma helicopters. The Jakarta Post reports that another three TNI-AU C-130s have participated in the search as well, but these might be the Hercs from neighbouring air forces. Bell 412s were also involved in the operations.
Singapore and India
Amongst the other search assets deployed were two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130H Hercules’s from 122 Squadron based at Paya Lebar Airbase, joined on Monday by at least two RSAF Super Pumas. The Indian Navy put one of its brand new Boeing P-8Is based at Naval Air Station Rajali on stand-by on Sunday.
Royal Malaysian Air Force
At least one Royal Malaysian Air Force Hercules was readied on Sunday, likely from 20 Squadron based at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah / Subang RMAF in Kuala Lumpur. On Monday 29 December the RMAF fielded a C-130 (likely the only C-130MP), a CN235-220M tactical airlifter and and a Beechcraft 200T Super King Air maritime patrol aircraft.
Royal Australian Air Force
Australia pre-alerted one of its AP-3C Orions on 28 December. The RAAF Orion joined the search on 29 December, taking off from Darwin in the early morning and heading to Indonesia. “The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members,” RAAF Air Chief Marshal Binskin said in an official statement.
What is left for friends and families of the ones on board Air Asia A320 flight QZ8501 is hope that the combined search effort has at least some result and doesn’t end like Malaysia Airlines MH370.
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 4 APRIL 2014 22:45 UTC | Kick off on 26 March 2014 for the very large NATO+ naval exercise Joint Warrior – Spring edition. Place of events: the North Sea and coastal areas of Scotland. More than 10,000 military personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, New-Zealand, Norway, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom participate. They put to sea 35 vessels, 35 helicopters and about 30 aircraft. The actual war games take place from 31 March to 10 April and marks the first deployment ever of the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon (US Navy) in Europe!
Footage of 40 Commando Royal Marines in helicopter assault, Joint Warrior 31 March 2014
RAF Lossiemouth will be the main air base of operations for the land based air assets, with RAF Leuchars as the secondary land base. The air assets confirmed to be involved in Joint Warrior Spring 2014 are these units and/or aircraft:
Marine (French Navy) Breguet Atlantique from SECBAT (tail nr. 18), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed CP-140 Aurora, two aircraft (140115, 140113 (404 Maritime Patrol and Training Squadron, CFB Greenwood)), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm Westland Wildcat maritime helicopters from 700W Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton, UK
Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm AgustaWestland Merlin Mk1 shipborne ASW helicopters from 829 Naval Air Squadron, operating from Type 23 frigates
Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm AgustaWestland Merlin Mk2 maritime patrol & anti-piracy helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, UK
Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm Westland Sea King Mk4 (Commando Helicopter Force) from 845 Naval Air Squadron, operating from Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious
Royal Netherlands Air Force Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) AS532U2 Cougar Mk2 transport helicopters from 300 Squadron (Gilze Rijen AB), two embarked on the LPD L801 Johan de Witt
Royal New Zealand Air Force Lockheed P-3K Orion from 5 Squadron (NZ2403) (Whenuapai Mil), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm BAe Hawk T1 advanced jet trainers from 736 Naval Air Squadron (RNAS Culdrose), at least 4 aircraft (incl. no. XX170, XX301, and XX316), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed P-3C Orion (3298 “Viking”) from 333 skvadron (Andøya AB), operating from RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules (5629 “Nanna”) from 353 skvadron (Gardermoen IAP), flying in supplies to RAF Lossiemouth
Royal Air Force BAe Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers from 4(R) Squadron, RAF Valley
Royal Air Force BAe Hawk T1 advanced jet trainers from 100 Squadron, RAF Leeming
Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4 interdicter strike aircraft from IX Squadron, RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighters from XI Squadron, RAF Coningsby
Royal Air Force Boeing E-3D Sentry AWACS from 8 Squadron, RAF Waddington
Royal Air Force Airbus Voyager tanker (A330 MRTT) from 10 Squadron, RAF Brize Norton
Royal Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules from 47 Squadron, RAF Brize Norton
Royal Air Force BAe 125 CC3 (ZD703) liaison jet from RAF Northolt, flying in RAF Lossiemouth 29 March 2014
Royal Air Force Agusta Westland Merlin HC3 medium-lift helicopters from either 28(AC) Squadron and/or 78 Squadron, RAF Benson
Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook medium-lift helicopters from either 7 and/or 18 and/or 27 Squadron, RAF Odiham
Army Air Corps Boeing/Westland WAH-64 Apache attack helicopters
Army Air Corps Boeing Chinook transport helicopters, incl. from 27 Squadron, RAF Odiham
Army Air Corps Aérospatiale Puma transport helicopters
Army Air Corps Lynx Mk9A
US Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol & surveillance aircraft, from VP-5 (436) (NAS Jacksonville), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
US Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion MPA, two aircraft from VP-10 (161413, 885) (NAS Jacksonville), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
US Navy Lockheed NP-3 Orion MPA test aircraft, from VX-20 (158204) (NAS Patuxent River), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth
US Navy Sikorsky SH-60 and MH-60 Seahawk shipborne maritime helicopters on board the cruisers USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) guided-missile destroyers USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), USS Cole (DDG 67), USS Ross (DDG 71), guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B Roberts (FFG 58), and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawa (T-AO 196)
US Navy Lockheed C-130T-30 Hercules (no. 4598) from VR-55 (NAS Point Mugu) flying in supplies to RAF Lossiemouth
Sources: Koninklijke Marine / Royal Navy / US Navy and several aviation enthousiasts with the latest on-site confirmations.