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Japanese P-1 MPA to make first international trip to UK and Djibouti

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries P-1 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) will make its international debut in July, following confirmation that it is due to fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in the UK followed by tropical testing in Djibouti.

As the UK continues to debate bringing an MPA back into operation, the P-1, which entered service with the JMSDF in 2013, will be touted on both the ground and in the air, as two of the type are due to attend the event – one in the flying display and one on static.

The Japanese Ministry of Defence says that this deployment will “promote mutual understanding” with British forces and other nations in the area. It will be followed by testing in Djibouti, where the aircraft will carry out a series of trials in a tropical and desert environment.

The P-1s are due to depart Atsugi, Japan on 10 July, followed by participation in RIAT from 17-19 July, then carry out operational testing from 22 July until they land back at Atsugi on 25 July.

The JMSDF currently has eight of the type in service plus two testbeds and two more on order, as well as holding pending orders for 60 more, Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows. It will eventually replace the JMSDF's Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion MPA, 99 of which are still in service.

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Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

An export order has yet to be made for the P-1, but a European display may help to promote overseas sales of the type.

The UK retired its BAE Systems Nimrod MR2 MPAs in 2010 following a cost review and has since been without a capability that has arguably been needed since the increase in tension with Russia.

The planned replacement for the Nimrod MR2 – the Nimrod MRA4 – was cancelled in the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review later the same year. It is expected that more details will surface on a new requirement in the UK's next SDSR, which is expected to be released later in 2015.

Likely contenders for a new MPA include the Airbus Defence & Space C295, Boeing 737-based P-8 Poseidon and a refurbished Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport. A surprise contender, in the form of the Kawasaki P-1, emerged in early 2015.

According to RIAT, this will be the public debut of any JMSDF asset in the UK. However, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force flew its Boeing KC-767J tankers at RIAT in 2012 and 2014.

The P-1 is believed to have a maximum range of some 4,300nm (8,000km) and is equipped with a Toshiba HPS-106 active electronically scanned array maritime radar.

The maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft is powered by four Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries F7-10 turbofan engines. The P-1 is 38m (125ft) long, 12.1m high and has a wingspan of 35.4m, says KHI, with a basic operating weight of 80t.

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