Tokyo plans a major investment in electronic warfare (EW) to help counter rising threats in the region.
According to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo plans to adapt the Kawasaki C-2 tactical transport aircraft as an EW platform, with deployment planned for 2027.
Citing sources, the report adds that the P-1 maritime patrol aircraft may also be adapted for the electronic warfare mission. Other media reports have suggested that Tokyo is interested in acquiring the Boeing EA-18G Growler, the EW variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Tokyo’s recently approved Medium Defence Program reportedly calls for a greater emphasis on electronic warfare.
There is a precedent for adapting the C-2 platform for other uses. In February 2018, images and video of a C-2 modified for electronic intelligence appeared on social media. The aircraft was conducting test flights from Japan’s Gifu air base.
Modifications included large blisters aft of the wing, several antennas under the fuselage, and a dome on the upper part of the fuselage, aft of the cockpit and forward of the wings. In addition, the top tail was modified with an additional fairing, while the radome is larger than on the baseline C-2.
Japan’s strategic rival, China, is also boosting its electronic warfare capabilities. Among other efforts, it is developing a two-seat variant of the Shenyang J-15 and J-16 fighters with pods that resemble the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-216 wingtip pods used on the EA-18G.
In addition, US ally Australia has 11 EA-18Gs – the 12th was lost in an engine fire during takeoff. In 2018, L3 Technologies secured an $83 million deal from Canberra to upgrade two Gulfstream G550s to the MC-55 electronic warfare version.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the Japan Air Self-Defence Force operates a fleet of eight C-2s, with an additional 14 examples on order.