Japan is planning to issue a request for proposals for search and rescue helicopters to equip its air force and navy. The RFP is expected to be issued in June, say industry sources.

"Some of the UH-60Js have been in service quite a while," says an industry source, adding that new helicopters are required to prepare for gradual attrition of the legacy type.

The self-defence forces will also make it clear in the RFP that they want their new aircraft to have more capability in terms of range and payloads, the source adds.

Japan's current UH-60Js were built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under licence from Sikorsky. The helicopter is based on the US company's S-70 Seahawk and deliveries started in the early 1990s.

 UH-60J Japan - US Navy
© Ensign Stephanie Krueger/US Navy

The RFP is being issued in time for the procurement to be included in the next fiscal year budget, which starts on 1 April 2011.

Industry sources also predict that the Japan ground self-defence force will eventually make a proposal to replace its Fuji/Bell UH-1 utility helicopters. But it is unlikely to happen in the next budget, they add.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries confirms it has proposed the OH-1 for the future requirement. The OH-1 is a light military reconnaissance helicopter that KHI developed and plans to modify to fulfil the UH-1's role.

However, the army has also been speaking to other manufacturers about the UH-1 replacement deal, industry sources confirm. They say there are concerns that KHI's proposal may be too expensive.

Source: Flight International