Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) plans to manufacture a commercial freighter derivative of its military C-X airlifter, potentially pitching it into competition against its US partner Boeing.
KHI's aerospace division confirms that although its first priority is to complete the military aircraft, work on a commercial version is planned towards the end of this decade.
The C-X is a medium-sized high-wing military transport aircraft equipped with a rear-loading ramp and powered by General Electric CF6-80C2 engines. It is being developed to replace Japan's ageing fleet of Kawasaki C-1 and Lockheed Martin C-130 airlifter. The military version has a payload of 26t, which will increase to about 37t for the commercial model.
In March last year, KHI assembled one C-X airframe and delivered it to the Japan Defence Agency's (JDA) Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) for static testing. The first picture of the completed prototype was published earlier this year.
Japan's civil fleet is predominantly Boeing aircraft, and the country's leading aerospace companies, such as KHI, are industrial partners on many of the US airframer's programmes.
Meanwhile, fellow Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is hoping to enroll Boeing as a partner on its MRJ regional jet programme. Local press reports quote Nobuo Toda, head of MHI's aerospace division, as saying Boeing is one of the parties MHI is targeting to assist it with the programme. It quotes Toda as saying the Japanese firm hopes Boeing will help it with sales strategy, maintenance and pilot training.
While Boeing confirms it has been in talks with MHI about the MRJ, at last month's Paris air show Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Scott Carson denied it had any plans to invest in the programme.
"We are talking to Boeing about several matters, but the specific items have not been publicised yet," says MHI.