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AERO INDIA: ShinMaywa bullish over US-2 prospects

Japanese airframer ShinMaywa has a significant presence at this year's Aero India show in Bengaluru, as New Delhi and Tokyo explore a possible Indian acquisition of the US-2 amphibious aircraft.

A company source says that a high-level joint working group between the two governments has met four times since being formed in 2013 in the wake of former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan. A subcommittee related to the acquisition has had more frequent interactions to discuss technical details. One key element involved in any offset campaign related to the type would be maintenance, repair and overhaul work in India.

ShinMaywa produces roughly one US-2 annually for Japan's navy, and so far seven examples have been delivered. The four-engined type serves in the long-range search and rescue role.

The working group involves officials from the militaries of both countries, as well as civilian officials, whose focus ranges from civilian aviation to trade.

The company source says the US-2 would perform a number of roles for India, including long-range combat search and rescue, shore-to-ship and ship-to-ship transport, and humanitarian missions. The aircraft would also be an effective way to reach India’s far-flung Andaman and Nicobar Islands, many of which are accessible only by ship.

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"Indian fighters are always flying over the sea, but you can't always have a ship below them," says the source. "The US-2 offers a unique capability, with its 10h endurance and ability to land and take off in high sea states."

The next step for any acquisition would be for India's Defence Acquisition Council to issue an 'acceptance of necessity' document. This would set the stage for the working group to draw up details related to the procurement contract, plus offsets and transfer of technology.

If an Indian US-2 deal moves forward, New Delhi would probably obtain 12-18 aircraft. These limited volumes make local production line unviable, but ShinMaywa's extensive involvement in commercial aircraft systems would offer significant scope for offset work. The executive adds, however, that there is no official indication as yet on the total numbers to be procured.

The company source adds that several countries have made enquires about the US-2 with the Japanese government, but India is the only nation with which Tokyo is actively in discussions about the aircraft.

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