Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) is to begin production of the Forward Flying Observation System (FFOS) unmanned helicopter in 1999 for the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF), following the completion last year of Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) trials on a prototype.

The company says it expects to get an order for "three or four" FFOS unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) from the JGSDF, with the contract for delivery of the first aircraft to be signed next year.

The Maritime and Air Self-Defence Forces are also studying the project, although they are unlikely to buy any of the remotely controlled helicopters in the near future, Fuji says.

FHI is also working on a civilian version of the FFOS, the RPH-2, and says that foreign parties, including Italy, have already expressed interest in acquiring the system. Under the Japanese constitution, companies are forbidden from exporting military hardware.

The civil variant is powered by a single two-cycle 60kW (85hp) engine and can carry a payload of up to 100kg for about 1h. The RPH-2 will be equipped with a chemical pesticide tank and spray boom in place of the belly-mounted imaging system on the FFOS.

The Japan Air Self-Defence Force's (JASDF's) Air Development and Proving Wing has begun tests of a new UAV launched from a McDonnell Douglas F-4J fighter. The TRDI has been funding development of the air-launched system since 1995. Two flying prototypes have been built and were delivered in September.

The 0.9m-long UAV has been designed for high-speed, long-range, reconnaissance missions, controlled remotely from the launching aircraft and transmitting real time imagery to the ground.

Source: Flight International