Andrzej Jeziorski/TOKYO

The Japan Defence Agency (JDA) has begun to crystallise its requirement for a replacement military transport, according to JDA officials speaking at the Tokyo Aerospace 2000 show - held from 22-26 March at the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre.

The C-X replacement for the air force's ageing Kawasaki C-1s will be turbofan-powered, with twice the payload of a Lockheed Martin C-130, says the JDA. Agency officials also say they want an aircraft with sufficient range to reach Hawaii, and that only a turbofan will meet the Japan Air Self-Defence Force's (JASDF) speed requirements for its new transport.

The Agency has yet to decide, however, whether it will opt for an all-Japanese design, or buy a current aircraft for production under licence in Japan. The JDA says that the C-1 is likely to stay in service for at least another 10 years. Bidders for the C-X contract say, however, that they think entry into service of a replacement aircraft could be as early as 2008.

The JASDF owns 27 C-1s, 12 Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules and some Nihon YS-11s. It is estimated that the C-X requirement could be for 20 to 50 aircraft, depending on the capabilities selected, and whether the YS-11 fleet is replaced.

Japan is still considering merging the C-X with its maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) requirement to replace Kawasaki-built P-3Cs, as a cost-reduction measure.

Japan operates more than 100 P-3Cs, and its replacement MPA requirement is understood to number about 80 aircraft. Boeing, which is proposing its C-17 as a solution to the C-X, says it does not believe that a common airframe can fulfil such diverse roles. There may be scope to keep certain elements common, such as the wing, however.

Boeing says that its priority is to pursue the JASDF's more immediate tanker/transport requirement, still stalled by political reluctance to acquire a refuelling capability, which could be perceived as strengthening Japan's offensive capabilities. The JDA says it needs a tanker capability for extending combat air patrols, and for long distance transport flights.

The Agency says that it prefers a Boeing 767 tanker/transport solution for commonality with the JASDF's airborne warning and control system fleet.

Source: Flight International