Paul Lewis/TOKYO

THE JAPAN Defence Agency (JDA) is holding discussions with Euroflag about the possible participation of Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) in the development and production of the Future Large Aircraft (FLA).

The Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) has a long-term need for up 30 transport aircraft to replace its fleet of Kawasaki C-1As. The aircraft are needed to provide long-range support for overseas Japanese military peace keeping operations.

JDA interest in the FLA has been prompted by the similarity of JASDF and European air forces requirements for new military transports. Provisional JDA planning calls for the delivery of a transport, known as the C-X, by 2004-5, around the same time as the FLA enters German and French service and between one and two years after the possible first delivery has been made to the Royal Air Force.

The JASDF, however, has expressed its preference for a turbofan engine, rather than a turboprop-powered transport. FLA partners, in turn, are stressing the need for a turboprop engine for the aircraft so that tactical approaches and low-speed parachute drops can be carried out.

Industry sources suggest that Japan could take a 9-10% stake in the FLA, based on its requirement for 30 aircraft. A total of 300 FLAs are required by potential customers such as Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Turkey.

The FLA consortium is hoping for a Japanese decision on participation before the start of pre-development work in 1996. An agreement on work-share, is expected to be finalised by the end of the year, after which it will become increasingly difficult for KHI to join the programme, suggests an industry source.

Membership of the FLA consortium, however, is complicated by Japan's constitution, which bans the export of weapons overseas. The supply of Japanese-produced subassemblies for foreign military aircraft would probably require a change in the law.

The FLA also faces strong competition from the USA, which has traditionally supplied much of Japan's military equipment. The US defence department, in particular, is keen to sell the larger McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III to the JASDF.

Lockheed has also been promoting the C-130J to Japan as a more immediate solution to its problem of inadequate airlift capability.

Source: Flight International