ANDREW DOYLE / TOKYO
Platforms for transport and maritime patrol aircraft are bound to be completely different, warns industry
Industry is sceptical over the level of commonality possible between the Japan Defence Agency's (JDA) proposed C-X and MPX aircraft programmes after the release of a request for proposals (RFP) in May.
One Japanese company planning to bid for contractorship of the project estimates airframe commonality potential as small due to differing operational requirements.
"Some parts would be used for both aircraft, such as the outer main wing, outer horizontal stabiliser and cockpit," says one source. "But I don't think we can use commonality much."
The C-X and MPX are to be developed by Japanese industry to replace Air Self-Defence Force Kawasaki C-1 transports and Maritime Self-Defence Force Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The JDA aims to cut development costs by using a common platform.
The MPX is likely to be equipped with four engines while the cargo variant is expected to be a twin. The pair could also need different fuselage cross-sections.
Responses to the RFP are due by the end of next month, and Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are expected to bid for prime contractorship. Five smaller firms are bidding for subcontracts to design, develop and manufacture subassemblies.
The JDA envisages MPX development in 2001 to 2010 with a first flight in September 2006. The C-X would be in development until 2011 and fly in September 2007.
Boeing aims to offer a variant of its C-17 for the C-X, but Boeing Japan president Rick Martin does not believe that the development of a single airframe for both requirements can provide a solution.