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Japanese amphibious aircraft US-2 for Indian Navy

 
   
 
By Sangeeta Saxena Published: December 2013
 
 
 
 
 

New Delhi. What will culminate into strengthening of military alliance between Japan and India, will also be seen as an answer to China’s rise as a threat to regional stability, especially in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean regions. The need for the amphibian aircraft was felt mostly for geo-strategic reasons. It feels that amphibious aircraft could be placed in the Andaman and Nicobar islands which provide the base of India’s Tri- Service A&N Command, meant to keep a vigil in the Bay of Bengal. The aircraft would spearhead any littoral warfare operations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

 

Indian Navy issued a Request for information (RFI) in early 2011 for the acquisition of nine amphibious aircraft to cater for its requirements of Coastal/ Inter Island ferry for Personnel and Cargo, supply of critical spares to units at sea,rapid response missions for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief,Visual / Radar Surveillance at long range, Long range Search and Rescue Mission and Casualty Evacuation at sea. Canada’s Bombardier, Japan’s ShinMaywa and Russia’s Beriev were the notable aircraft manufacturer who had responded to the RFI.

“We believe that this aircraft is really the best and second to none in its category. It is global in the true sense of the word. The enormous capabilities of this aircraft can play a major part in enhancing India’s role in the region. We have offered the same US-2 configuration to the Indian Navy, with minor changes (mostly upgrades in avionics section) as is being flown by the JMSDF” informed Cmde (Retd) Sujeet Samaddar, Chief Executive Officer, ShinMaywa Industries India Private Limited in an exclusive interview with India Strategic.

“US-2 is the outcome of nearly sixty years of work and combines surveillance and response in one platform which no other aircraft can do” added Samaddar.

The aircraft is designed for air-sea rescue missions and is equipped with a glass cockpit with integrated instrument panel. Amphibious aircraft can combine the capabilities of rapid surveillance and prompt response, whether for relief or arrest, in a single platform. Such a capability is not available on any other platform. The modern amphibious aircraft is thus a veritable force multiplier since they fulfill a multitude of missions in a single platform. Capability analysis indicates that the US -2 is a unique aircraft and the only ‘in service’ open sea capable amphibian aircraft with state of art equipment, very rough sea operations (Sea state 5 upto 3m wave height) and riverine/lake landing capability, STOL features, long endurance and extended radius of operations with large payload capacity. With such unique features, US-2 may be considered as an effective platform to carry out ‘Benign’ missions such as SAR, CASEVAC, Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Management, and ‘Constabulary’ missions such as extended EEZ surveillance and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) missions of the Indian Navy. The US-2 with its unmatched capability is considered to be extremely useful for strengthening the safety and security of SLOCs, long range Fleet Support and Island/Off shore assets (both overseas and coastal) support functions. These missions when combined in a single multimodal platform such as the US-2 can earn for India the precious good will of nations of the Indian Ocean region commensurate with it’s identity as a responsible rising power.

The aircraft is presently operated only by the JMSDF and is deployed across the remote islands of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zones to provide surveillance and SAR. The aircraft can quickly reach remote islands and sites of maritime accidents during search and rescue (SAR) operations. Not only is US -2 the first Japanese aircraft to be offered to the Indian defence market but India is also the first prospective external customer of this aircraft. To date US -2 has been operated by the JMSDF alone. The first US-2 aircraft was delivered to Japan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in February 2009 and the fifth in 2011. The same year, Japan eased the decades-old ban on arms exports, paving the way for Japanese firms to take part in multinational military projects. Significantly, in the Summit Meeting held in Tokyo on May 29, 2013, the Prime Ministers of Japan and India decided to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) to explore modality for the cooperation on the US-2 amphibian aircraft.

With regard to offset obligations to be met as part of contractual obligations, Samaddar noted “The Indian aviation private sector doesn’t have enough capability and experience at the present moment in aircraft manufacturing. So we have to really partner with Indian industry to build the required capability, develop the right skill sets, imbibe highest quality and work ethics and provide mentoring to our IOP to become a world class company. Especially, for an aircraft as complicated as the US -2, it might take us a little while and the process has to be gradual but we are fully confident that if we have a chance we can help to transform the Indian aircraft industry just as Suzuki did to the automobile sector. We are also looking at maintenance, repair and overhaul for the aircraft in India, Foreign Direct Investment and sourcing from a large number of SMEs and in addition, we also have an extremely interesting plan towards creating an impact towards genuine capability building in the country in aeronautical engineering. Discussions are on with certain institutions regarding the same. Our plans are not ‘one off sale’ but we are completely committed to partner with India for a long term high-technology relationship.” He reiterated that offsets were not obligations but opportunities waiting to be explored.

Japan watchers in India will agree that ShinMaywa is really not a new entrant to India as it began operations almost 20 years ago. It has supplied more than 80 aerobridges to Indian airports and established state-of-the-art pumps for waste water treatment across the country. Hence it definitely feels at ease in the most lucrative defence market the world over and is waiting to get its share of the pie.

 
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