ShinMaywa has begun manufacturing parts for the first US-1A Kai search-and-rescue (SAR) amphibian. The aircraft is expected to fly in 2003.

The US-1A Kai is an upgraded and modernised version of the US-1A, replacing the older aircraft's four General Electric T64-10J turboprops with 3,350kW (4,500hp) Allison AE2100J engines, a hybrid development of the AE2100A which powers the Saab 2000 and the AE2100D3 which is behind the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules. The engines will drive six-bladed Dowty R414 propellers.

The upgraded aircraft will have a fly-by-wire flight control system developed by Kawasaki, full glass cockpit, search radar, pressurised upper hull and composite wings.

"The detailed drawings are complete and we are starting parts fabrication. In about three years we will have a flying prototype, and the target in-service date is six years later," says ShinMaywa. The aircraft will serve with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, says the company.

Source: Flight International