The Kawasaki C-2 strategic transport has made its debut at Paris, appearing in the static park alongside its cousin, the P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.
Though the two aircraft have a very different appearance and mission, they share a number design elements including the same wing and cockpit windows.
The pair form the centrepiece of a major Japanese commitment to the show involving some 65 defence personnel, including Masahito Goto, a major general in the Japan Air Self Defense Force. An engineer by background, Goto is also deputy director of Tokyo’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency.
He says a crucial requirement for the C-2, which is roughly the size of the Airbus Defence & Space A400M, is the ability to fly fast and far, allowing it to perform both tactical and strategic missions. Though this is its first Paris appearance, the aircraft visited the Dubai air show in 2017 and Australia’s Avalon air show in February this year. The primary purpose of exhibiting the C-2 and P-1 is not to generate sales interest but to show off Japanese technological prowess and promote the idea of joint development work, says Goto.
Goto says the C-2 has been cleared for a full range of missions in JASDF service, including air drops of cargo and personnel, receiving fuel while airborne, low level flight, and formation flight.
There are eight C-2s in Japanese service, not including two prototypes developed for the programme. Eventually the JASDF could obtain up to 30 examples, if budget permits.
One of the prototype C-2s, which Tokyo designates LRX, has been modified as an experimental signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft. Goto says that the work is purely experimental but, if successful, it could pave the way for a dedicated SIGINT version of the type.
Goto’s colleague, Rear Admiral Naoya Hoshi, says the P-1 has performed very well in Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force service, with considerably better range, performance, and sensing capability than the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion it will replace. He says that Tokyo has 21 P-1s in service and could take up to 70 examples if finance permits.
The C-2 is powered by two General Electric CF6 turbofans, while the P-1 is powered by four IHI Corporate F7 engines.
Goto also touched on Tokyo’s high-profile plans to develop a replacement for the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter, known variously as the F-3 or Future Fighter.
He stresses that Tokyo is still evaluating its options on how best to proceed. The three major options are a fully indigenous fighter, co-development, or a derivative of an existing aircraft. Tokyo is certain, however, that it wants to lead the effort, and would like to start “as soon as possible.”