SAAB AIRCRAFT HAS sold two specially equipped variants of the 340BPlus regional turboprop to the Japan Maritime Safety Agency (JMSA) for search-and-rescue (SAR) and transport duties.

It is the first time that Saab has produced the aircraft in a search-and-rescue configuration. The sale is part of a growing effort by the Swedish manufacturer to increase its share of the market for special-mission aircraft.

The JMSA aircraft, complete with a search radar and forward-looking infra-red sensor, is due to be delivered in 1997. The sale puts Saab in a good position to meet further JMSA requirements as it moves to replace 16 Beech King Air 200Ts and five NAMC YS-11s.

The programme is expected to start by the end of the decade. Saab will be hoping to capitalise on its breakthrough by offering its larger Saab 2000 for at least part of the SAR/ transport requirement.The Saab 2000 will be flown to Japan later this month.

Saab is hoping to impress officials from the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau. The agency is expected to put out a request for proposals later this month for two YS-11 replacements to undertake flight-checking duties. Rivals such as the de Havilland Dash 8, Aero International (Regional) ATR 42 and Fokker 50 are expected to be among the contenders. A further five aircraft could be required to replace six YS-11s now in service.

Replacement of ageing YS-11s holds the prospect of a sizeable market for Western-aircraft manufacturers. The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force has funds to replace two aircraft in the transport role and several airlines are near to a decision on scrapping the aircraft.

Source: Flight International