Unexplained programme problem sees service entry with JDA slip a year to 2007

Japan has pushed back by at least one year the scheduled deployment of the ShinMaywa Industries US-1A Kai amphibian, despite the on-time delivery of its first prototype aircraft.

ShinMaywa has completed a company flight-test programme and on 24 March handed over the first flying prototype to the Japan Defence Agency (JDA). The search and rescue aircraft has been ferried from ShinMaywa's plant in Kobe to Iwakuni, where it will be tested by the JDA's Technical Research and Development Institute for the next two years.

The Kai was scheduled to enter service in June 2006, but Rolls-Royce, which is supplying the aircraft's AE2100 engines, says this will now happen in 2007. Neither the UK company or ShinMaywa will comment on the cause of the apparent programme delay.

A JDA official says aircraft development is on schedule for completion in 2006, but confirms the earliest possible entry into service date is 2007. The agency now plans to budget for the first production aircraft in fiscal year 2005, resulting in delivery in the fiscal year that begins on 1 April 2007, says the source. However, a further delay in initial deployment is possible if the JDA decides next year against procuring the first production aircraft in FY05, he reveals. The JDA will base its decision on initial flight-test results and budget issues.

First flight was postponed last year from August until December to replace a clogged boundary-layer control engine duct. But ShinMaywa earlier indicated this delay would be made up in its flight-test programme, which was compressed from seven to three months and shortened from an original requirement of 100h. The company has not revealed how many hours its prototype has logged to date.

A second prototype is scheduled to fly within the next few months, ahead of its delivery in August. Both prototypes will later be converted into qualified production aircraft, but this process will not be completed until 2008, or after the first production aircraft is deployed.

ShinMaywa began developing the US-1A Kai in 1999 as a replacement for the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force's fleet of seven US-1As. The Kai introduces a pressurised cabin, glass cockpit, stronger wing, upgraded boundary-layer control system and more powerful AE2100 engines. The R-R powerplants replace the original aircraft's General Electric T64-10Js, while the Kawasaki boundary-layer control system is powered by an LHTEC CTS800-4K engine.


Source: Flight International