Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) expects to complete its fourth and final OH-1 flight test helicopter in March and deliver all four prototypes to the Japan Defence Agency's Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) by the end of August.

Three prototype scout helicopters, formerly designated as the OH-X, have been built and test flown at KHI's Gifu plant since August 1996. The lead prototype has flown a total of 30h to date, the second machine has clocked up another 20h since its first flight in November and the third OH-1 a further 5h following its maiden flight on 9 January.

KHI says it will finish company flight testing and hand over the first two OH-1s to the TRDI in early June for operational testing and evaluation. The third machine will follow at the end of the month and the fourth helicopter in late August.

Japan's coalition government has in the meantime cut back the launch order for the first production OH-1s to three machines. The Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) had originally requested funding for five OH-1s in fiscal year 1997. The first helicopter is scheduled for delivery in 2000.

Other JGSDF programmes approved under the 1997 budget include its first two Beechcraft Super King Air 350/LR-2 liaison aircraft out of three requested, four Mitsubishi/Sikorsky UH-60JA helicopters cut from six, two KHI/Boeing CH-47JAs, three Fuji/Bell UH-1Js and a single Fuji/Bell AH-1S anti-tank machine.

Source: Flight International