Competitors Bombardier and Irkut insist Japanese would not be a threat

Japan’s ShinMaywa Industries has secured support from the Japan Aircraft Development Corporation (JADC) to help develop and sell civil variants of the US-1A Kai amphibian.

JADC general manager of the US-1A commercialisation group Eiichi Negishi says it has launched a study into the potential export market for proposed firefighting, transport and civilian search and rescue (SAR) variants. He says JADC also has begun conceptual studies to determine how the US-1A, initially developed for military SAR missions, can be modified for these civilian missions.

ShinMaywa has been looking at developing civil variants of the US-1A Kai for several years and last year requested national support (Flight International, 3-9 May 2005). The JADC, a non-profit organisation used to study potential new indigenous products and develop components for new commercial aircraft, agreed last November to support the US-1A commercialisation project. JADC then sent a team to Italy and France late last year to discuss the firefighting variant with potential European operators.

The corporation also hopes to open discussions with Malaysia, which plans to open a competition later this year for two amphibious maritime patrol aircraft. Bombardier and Russia’s Irkut are already competing for this requirement and believe their 415 and Be200 aircraft will be able to beat the US-1A in any market because the US-1A is more expensive and does not have civil certification.

ShinMaywa senior engineer Koji Fukai acknowledges it so far has had preliminary discussions only with potential launch customers and it must reduce the cost of the US-1A to be successful. “If we can reduce the cost we we’ll have a very good opportunity,” he says.

Two US-1A Kais are now being test flown and are scheduled to enter service next year with the Japanese navy. Fukai says it will take four to five years following launch to certificate and deliver the first civil variant.


Source: Flight International