Japanese airframer ShinMaywa is confident Japan will order a sixth US-2 amphibious search and rescue (SAR) aircraft within the next two years, and is optimistic about the type's chances in an Indian navy requirement for nine amphibious aircraft.
The company delivered a fifth US-2 to the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force last year, and the defence ministry has already budgeted for the sixth, says Kanji Ishimaru, who leads ShinMaywa's aircraft division. The type is gradually replacing the US-1 SAR aircraft in Japanese service, with only two examples of the US-1A remaining in use.
Ishimaru says it can be challenging producing aircraft in such small numbers, but the company can use employees from its commercial aircraft sub-assembly business and the US-2 maintenance team that supports the type in Japanese service.
Because the US-2 is unarmed, Tokyo allows ShinMaywa to market the design overseas. In January 2012, New Delhi issued a request for information for nine amphibious SAR aircraft. India's requirement could eventually be expanded to total 18 aircraft.
Ishimaru says the US-2 is uniquely suited to flying long-range SAR missions in support of military operations. Powered by four Rolls-Royce AE2100J turboprops - the same powerplant used by the Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport already operated by the Indian air force - the Japanese type has a maximum range of 2,540nm (4,700km) and can take off and land in 3m (10ft) swells.
In addition to its 11-man crew, the US-2 can carry 11 passengers. In pure troop-transport configuration it can carry 30 fully-equipped soldiers.
Ishimaru lists rivals for the Indian requirement as the Beriev Be-200 and Bombardier 415. Other possible markets for the US-2 include Brunei and Indonesia, he adds.
US-1A and US-2 aircraft have been involved in more than 900 at-sea rescues since the introduction of the former model in the early 1970s, Ishimaru says.