Leonardo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) are to build an undisclosed number of additional MCH-101 naval helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) as it marked the start of a mid-life update (MLU) on the service’s current fleet.

A licence-built version of the Leonardo Helicopters AW101, Japan operates 10 MCH-101s for mine countermeasures and transportation missions and three utility-transport-roled CH-101s in support of Japan’s Antarctic research activities. Japan also placed an order for a single example in 2022.


Japan’s navy operates 10 MCH-101s

An initial batch of rotorcraft is covered by the MLU, although Leonardo declines to specify a quantity. They will receive avionics upgraded to the latest standard, says the manufacturer.

KHI is the prime contractor on the MCH-101 with Leonardo Helicopters providing technical support for the platform, while local distributor Marubeni Aerospace is responsible for spares, ground support equipment and services.

Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, says: “We are proud of our close partnership with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Marubeni Aerospace and today we are excited to celebrate this important milestone and contract. It emphasises the AW101’s important role in Japan’s defence, as well as the outstanding capabilities it delivers among operators worldwide.”

KHI delivered the first AW101 to the JMSDF on 24 May 2006, while its initial mine-countermeasures-equipped variant entered operational service in 2016.

Separately, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace, the authorised distributor for the airframer’s AW139, AW169 and AW189 civil helicopters in Japan, has announced orders for two AW169 light intermediate-twins, one of which will be in a fire-fighting configuration.