Japan’s Accelerates Aircraft Modernisation Plans

Japan’s Accelerates Aircraft Modernisation Plans
Japan’s Accelerates Aircraft Modernisation Plans.

The recently concluded DSEI Japan 2023 exhibition held in Chiba, Tokyo provided an important insight into Japan’s military modernisation plans and its intention to grow its defence exports. With Japan racing to modernise its military and improve operational readiness it will have to look at importing large quantities of defence equipment to meet its urgent needs.

The highlight of the show was the tri-nation Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) between the UK, Japan and Italy, with a concept aircraft model shown for the first time, since the initiative was announced in December 2022. A new visual identity and logo for the GCAP was also revealed at the show. This will be a generational program for Japan and will provide its companies with a vital foothold in the highly competitive global combat aircraft market for the island nation. Development work is expected to formally begin in 2025, once industrial partnership and workshares are concluded. A technology demonstrator aircraft is slated to take to the air in 2027 and entry into service is targeted for 2035.

The Mitsubishi Electric Company (MELCO) showcased its efforts at developing components for a next-generation AESA radar for the GCAP programme, which will have greater range and increased multi-target capability. It is also working on EW sensors for the programme. Leonardo, MELCO and Elettronica announced at the show, the inking of a collaboration agreement on the Integrated Sensing and Non-Kinetic Effects & Integrated Communications System (ISANKE & ICS) for GCAP. This will be followed by a permanent industrial construct between these three companies.

A joint UK-Japan programme is also underway on the former’s Joint New Air-to-Air Missile (JNAAM) for which MELCO is working to develop an Active Electronically Steered Array (AESA) seeker to be integrated MBDA’s Meteor long-range beyond visual range air-to-air missile. The JNAAM is being developed for the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s (JASDF) F-35 fleet and will be a likely contender for the GCAP programme as well.

Just as with the F-35 programme, Japan could emerge as the largest export customer for GCAP, with the latter slated to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 in service with the JASDF. The JASDF has 147 F-35s on order – 105 F-35 A models and up to 42 F-35 B models. The first F-35B is slated to be delivered to Japan by Lockheed Martin in 2025.

In keeping with the trend of European companies having much closer defence ties with Japan, than ever before, an official from Leonardo, said the company was hopeful of its M-346 emerging as a front-runner for a future JASDF trainer requirement to replace its Kawasaki T-4 intermediate jet trainer. Japan and Italy already share a close defence partnership and the JASDF has sent two pilots for training at the International Flight Training School (IFTS), which is operated by Leonardo and the Italian Air Force and uses the M-346.

An official from Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) said that the company was proceeding with upgrade efforts on JASDF C-2 transport aircraft and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) P-1 maritime patrol aircraft. Subaru Corporation has now completed deliveries of a first batch of six UH-2s to the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF). It is slated to deliver 13 more UH-2s in FY 22-23.

by Asian Military Review, DSEI Japan 2023