Budget constraints caused by the acquisition of a new ballistic missile defence system have forced Japan to reduce its purchase of military helicopters to just 15 this year, and to abandon plans to acquire additional Shinmaywa US-1A Kai amphibians.

Approved by parliament late last month, and representing a 0.9% fall against 2005, Tokyo’s fiscal year 2006 defence budget of ¥4.8 trillion ($40.7 billion) covers the acquisition of 12 aircraft, including three helicopters for the air force, nine helicopters for the army, and three helicopters and one fixed-wing trainer for the navy.

The air force has funds to buy five Mitsubishi F-2 fighters – one fewer than requested – three Fuji T-7 trainers, one missionised Raytheon Hawker 800, two Mitsubishi/Sikorsky UH-60Js and one Kawasaki/Boeing CH-47J Chinook, against a Japan Defence Agency (JDA) request for two. A planned upgrade of six Mitsubishi/Boeing F-15Js has been cut to just two aircraft.

Japan’s army will acquire four Fuji/Bell UH-1Js against a JDA request for five, plus two Kawasaki OH-1s, one Fuji/Boeing AH-64D Apache, one CH-47JA and one UH-60JA. The navy has received funds to purchase three Mitsubishi/Sikorsky SH-60K helicopters. This compares with a seven-aircraft acquisition last year and is fewer than its initial request for five aircraft in FY06. A request for one Fuji T-5 trainer was approved, but there is no funding for another US-1A Kai.

Source: Flight International