Government puts aside $800m for transport and maritime patrol aircraft programmes, but doubts raised over IHI engine

Japan plans to procure the first Kawasaki C-X transport and P-X maritime patrol aircraft in fiscal year 2004 and select the Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) XF7 as the P-X powerplant.

The Japanese government has earmarked ¥86 billion ($800 million) for the C-X and P-X programmes for FY04, which begins in April. The first flying prototypes for both new aircraft types need to be purchased in 2004 for the flight test programme to begin in 2007 as scheduled.

IHI says the Japan Defence Agency (JDA) must select an engine for the P-X in 2004 for it to to fly in 2007. The JDA last year chose the General Electric CF6-80C2 for the C-X and planned to pick an engine for the P-X. Despite the delay, IHI says the indigenous XF7 is the only candidate and purchasing a commercial engine is not a possibility.

P-X sceptics believe the XF7 is too expensive and risky, but IHI has determined through studies that purchasing and modifying a commercial engine would be costlier.

"There is no engine that meets the JDA requirement for P-X," IHI says, adding that its manufacturing costs have been reduced.

IHI has so far delivered to the JDA four XF7s, including three in the fourth quarter of 2003. IHI plans to deliver a fifth and final research engine next month to support a test programme that will run through 2005. If the JDA selects the XF7, the research programme will be transitioned into a development and over 320 engines will be acquired for the fleet of four-engined P-Xs, which is expected to number 80. Japan is also expected to acquire at least 44 C-Xs.

Japan is spending ¥80 billion on the two programmes in FY03, including the acquisition of static test articles.

Source: Flight International