Japanese manufacturer's options include tie-up with Sikorsky to build the S-92

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has launched a study to evaluate possible successors to its UH-60J helicopter programme.

Japan is expected to seek a UH-60 replacement in the second half of this decade and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) is already pushing the Japanese-assembled AgustaWestland EH101, which has been selected by the Japan Defence Agency (JDA) to replace its 11 Sikorsky MH-53 mine countermeasures and three Sikorsky S-61 Sea King Antarctic support helicopters. Sikorsky hopes to offer the S-92 or S-60 as a UH-60J replacement, potentially with MHI.

MHI's UH-60J programme manager, Jun Minato, says the company is considering a tie-up with Sikorsky to build the S-92. But he says MHI is also studying potential new Black Hawk variants and manufacturing other helicopter types to replace the UH-60Js. "We are doing a study for the future successor," he says.

Minato expects the JDA will select a UH-60J successor in 2008-9. MHI is still delivering UH-60Js to the Japanese Air and Maritime Self-Defence Forces (JASDF/JMSDF), but further acquisitions are not expected beyond this year. The JMSDF operates about 20 UH-60Js and the JASDF around 25.

KHI initially partnered with Sikorsky to offer S-92s to replace the MH-53s and S-61s, but the pair dropped their bid last year ahead of the EH101's expected selection.

The EH101 selection was finalised earlier this month. MHI and Sikorsky believe the EH101 is too large and does not suit the rescue mission now performed by the UH-60J. "The downwash is too strong for the rescue mission," Minato says.

AgustaWestland sources refute the downwash criticism and add that Denmark and Portugal evaluated the issue before both acquiring the EH101 for search and rescue. Canada also uses the EH101 for search and rescue missions.

Smiths Aerospace has received a contract to supply its enhanced flight data recorder (EFDR) for JMSDF SH-60Kais. Kanto Aircraft Instrument will licence-build the EFDR. Smiths says 50 new-build machines are included in an initial $6 million contract. The deal is potentially worth more than five times its initial value. Kanto has also signed a licensing agreement with Smiths to supply the latter's electrical power management system for more than 60 Boeing AH-64DApache attack helicopters for the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force. The contract is valued at more than $30 million.

Source: Flight International